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Within Your Reach

Christian Wissmuller • Current IssueEditorialMay 2024 • May 5, 2024

“Building customer relationships with confidence-inspiring policies and value-adds is a wonderful formula for success,” says Samia Scoda of BASSBOSS in this month’s Roundtable feature on PA Speakers.

“Confidence-inspiring policies” could be seen as synonymous with the larger concept that Menzie Pittman is advocating for in his Small Business Matters column: “Creative Allure.” Pittman argues that, for smaller brick-and-mortar MI retail operations in today’s climate, it’s absolutely imperative that unique product and service offerings be on the table and that relationships with customers – and potential customers – be forged. It’s not an entirely new concept, the notion that independent MI dealers need to be ever-more creative, nimble, and proactive in order to survive and thrive in the present-day. I’d wager that throughout my entire career at MMR, all 24 years of it (yikes…), the single most-covered topic, in one form or another, has been: How do smaller stores compete and succeed amidst the expanding presence of online retail and big-box behemoths? Of course, towards the beginning of my journey with MMR, you’d have added catalogs to the “enemy list,” but that’s been a relative non-factor for a while now…

What have the potential solutions been throughout those years – and have they changed or been added to? Generally speaking, successful MI retailers have leveraged the ability to offer service that their online competitors cannot, and which their larger B&M rivals sometimes choose not to (or often do rather poorly): lessons, repairs, and a degree of personal service and connection that holds real value for consumers. Back to Menzie’s column in this issue: “Win loyalty through creative diversification and quality of service. Today’s customers have a plethora of choices at the tips of their fingers. Therefore, success in today’s small business environment takes more than a dollop of creative thinking.”

Rochester, New York’s The House of Guitars, “The Store That Ate Your Brain” (see page 20) has certainly nailed “creative diversification” and “creative thinking.” Stocking amongst the finest and largest collections of instruments and musical gear anywhere is absolutely one way to achieve those ends, but one glance at the Google reviews for this MI institution reveals that the allure involves so much more: “Absolutely love this guitar and CD store! The staff were great… the place was HUGE, and the place was clean”; “Must-stop destination when in Rochester… The owner was fun to talk to. We spoke for at least 30 minutes and he gave me a nice tour”; “House of Guitars is legendary, so if you’re in the area you HAVE to stop in… the staff is super cool, friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable”; “A national treasure, it’s a musician’s and music lover’s temple”; “Wow, wow, wow! Probably the coolest music store I’ve ever seen. Incredible selection of guitars”; “What a place. Friendliest people I’ve ever met.”

Do any of the reviews online mention the instruments stocked at House of Guitars? Sure. What’s the primary focus of the assessment from those who visit, though? The friendliness of the staff, how helpful everyone is, the cool vibe of the store, how fun it is.

Those are “confidence-inspiring policies” to aspire to. That’s “creative allure” within everyone’s reach.

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