As with each of the 31 reports that preceded it, the 2013 rendering of “America’s Top Chains” sees a few departures from the tally due to store closings, a few introductions (or re-introductions) to the list thanks to store openings, as well as a few brand new (or new to us) entries who we welcome to the fold. Thanks to Guitar Center’s (including Music & Arts) healthy clip of new storefronts (26!), as well as the growth of a handful of other companies – including those aforementioned first-time additions – our store-count is up from 774 in 2012 to the current reckoning of 815.
While 2012 seemed to possibly be ushering in a new era, as Yamaha’s AvantGrand was the top vote-getter in the “Product of the Year” category after first ending the previous winner’s 10-year streak in 2011, this year sees that previous instrument reclaim the distinction. As the Dealers’ Choice Awards enter their third decade, we see amongst the 2013 winners some familiar faces, some newcomers, and the return of champions from years past.
There are a few surprises and a few “predictable” results, but plenty to discuss, whatever the case. This year saw very similar results to 2012’s record final tally of votes cast, with just under 640 casting their selections via email, our online ballot form, fax, or good old snail mail (the embattled USPS appreciates it, no doubt). Many thanks to all of you who participated in the voting process and congratulation to the class of 2013 Dealer’s Choice Awards winners!
In recent years, the folks over at Guitar Center haven’t been… overly chatty with MMR. It wasn’t a policy directed solely at this publication – far from it. For a good while there, it just so happened that GC’s de facto procedure when it came to trade media was: say little, or say nothing.
That all began to change earlier this year, though.
Almost immediately after the appointment of Mike Pratt as CEO this past March, Guitar Center’s reps began (literally) returning calls, with high ranking officers making themselves available for comment on the issues of the day. Case(s) in point: when there began to be rumblings about the possible unionization of the NYC Guitar Center store, Gene Joly – then executive VP of stores – hopped on the phone for a detailed and frank interview (more on unionization and Joly later) which appeared in our June issue; When Standard & Poor’s cut Guitar Center Holding Inc.’s credit rating from B- to CCC+ in early June, GC was quick to reach out and note that earlier that very same week, Moody’s Investors Service considered Guitar Center to be “Stable” and their rating was “Unchanged.”
Bernard Masson, Owner
Business this year: Up significantly.
New brands or lines you took on in 2013 with success? Marshall, Casio, Yamaha, Samson, Woodsong, Oscar Schmidt, Fretlight, Presonus, Seymour Duncan, L.R. Baggs
Evolution in the industry you’re excited about? We have made a huge expansion and created four new opportunities: a music academy for in-house private lessons, a big jam room for the community, a school of dance, a band instrument repair shop with a state-of-the-art ultrasonic cleaner. We also have created a spectacular storefront that is the talk of the community and received great feedback for investing in the downtown of a rural county.
Rich Morgan, Owner/Manager
Business this year: 2013 has been up, not dramatically, but we are seeing a decent upward trend. Big-ticket items are still slow, but traffic has been pretty steady and our overall revenue went up.
New lines or brands you’ve taken on with success this year? We brought on the Yamaha Clavinova line, a decision that has worked out very well for us. It has increased our digital piano sales, especially to churches and schools.
Evan Jones, Owner
New brands or lines you took on in 2013 with success? The Ventura guitar line was recommended to us through the IMSO dealer network. We sell guitars in the beginner-to-hobbyist range, and these have been a great fit for us. They have a surprising selection of sizes and finishes, and best of all, they are only allowed to be sold in brick & mortar stores. No more show-rooming!
Robb Eagle, Owner
Business this year: Business this year has been just a bit off from last year.
Evolution in the industry you’re excited about? My sales are online through my website, though it is on a personal basis, not a shopping-cart basis. I closed my brick-and-mortar store just over two years ago, but still travel and do individual sales with my past customers in addition to those online. I
Matt Baker, Owner
Special challenges in 2013? We’ve been even, but the shutdown hurt us a lot since we’re seven miles from the capitol. All my customers are federal employees – it’s like if you’re in Boston and suddenly every university shut down.
New brands or lines you took on in 2013 with success? We just got Mesa, which I’m really looking forward to. And, honestly, Huss and Dalton acoustic guitars have been great. They make two a day and we’ve sold something like a dozen. Those sell at $3,000, so that means a lot.
Christian Glines, Owner
New brands or lines you took on in 2013 with success? In the past year we’ve added a complete line of American made “old time” open-back banjos (Enoch, Brooks, Bart Reiter, Pisgah), an electric department including Collings guitars, G&L guitars and basses, Ampeg and Orange amps, and a full array of American constructed boutique electric guitar and bass pedals (Zvex, Catalinbread, Empress, Malekko, Pigtronix). And to top it all off, we’ve added a collection of Scott Hausmann’s Whetstone guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles, which are made right here in Brattleboro.
Murray, Orem, St. George
Stan Beagley, President/CEO
Business this year: We’re seeing a 16-percent increase in sales over 2012.
Evolution in the industry you’re excited about? We are really excited about the trends in grand pianos, hybrid pianos and digital pianos. Our player piano business has been strong. We are using more technology than ever and it seems to be paying off.