In early September, Gene Joly – previously Guitar Center’s executive vice president of stores – was named president of GC’s Musician’s Friend (MF) division. In the short weeks since, he’s unquestionably hit the ground running, helping finalize the transition from MF’s previous headquarters in Medford, Oregon to the new digs on the GC Campus in Westlake Village, California.

“We’re moving pretty fast!” Joly laughs. “All the pieces are coming into place. We were also fortunate that some of the really great people in Medford did decide to make the move down here.”

Though he’s new to the title, Gene Joly is no stranger to the online MI realm.

“I spent three years in Medford learning catalog e-commerce after many, many years of brick and mortar,” he explains. “With catalog e-commerce, the customer is the same, the gear is the same, the competition is mostly the same, but the go-to-market strategy is completely different and the economics are totally different. Inventory is a great example: A typical GC store will have 7,000 SKUs – we have over 70,000 SKUs and growing.”

Expanding on the different rules that apply in MF’s world, Joly observes, “When a brick and mortar merchant makes a decision to bring something into our stores, that could easily be 800 – 1,000 pieces, so you want to make damn sure you’ve figured out the risk-reward there, because if it’s a mistake, it’s an expensive mistake and difficult to unwind. Whereas with e-commerce, I can sell one a month of something and get 6 turns a year. The industry average is something like 2.2 turns, so 6 turns is great.”

Any move comes with growing pains and Joly concedes that “it’s been a difficult transition and MF lost its brand voice a bit and has not been as fast to market as it needs to be” during the process.

When MMR spoke with him, Joly had only gotten his crew into their new offices two weeks previous. “The main thing right now is to get the team in place and organized, get very clear definition about what we own and make sure that everybody knows how to work with one another,” he notes. “Then, obviously, continuing to prepare for the holiday season, which we’ve been working on since day one.”

The move to Westlake Village does come with some tangible upside for MF’s overall business model. “We have way more access to vendors than we did in Medford,” Joly says. “So we have vendors that are here every week – we have a lot of vendors who are here every week. Another great thing about the move is digital marketing – these are all the folks who do pay per click, SEO, social media, and all that. In Medford we had a very hard time attracting people with those skill-sets. It’s a booming, cutting-edge field and these people are a younger demo, very tech-savvy, and they tend to want to live in major, urban areas like San Francisco, New York City, L.A., Boston, so getting them to consider moving to Oregon...  Here we have a huge team of people dedicated to all that, so that’s another definite advantage.”

Joly knows there’s work ahead and that the online world moves at lightning speed, but he’s looking at the challenges ahead with the confidence that comes from 38 years of experience in the MI industry. “I am not lacking strong competition – which is good!” he says with a laugh. “This is how industries move. Competition creates excellence as we strive to outdo one another, and we all benefit as consumers.”


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