thinking of opening a high end boutique guitar shop; advice?

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by smitty.west, Mar 5, 2015.

  1. smitty.west

    smitty.west Senior Member

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    guitars (and their associated gear) are all i've ever really known.

    i've tried my hand at all sorts of different things in my life, but have never been very happy with any of them. i work in a creative industry which most people would love to be part of, but it doesn't fulfill me the way guitar does.

    so i got to thinking...

    what if i were to try my hand at opening a high end guitar boutique?

    the city i live in doesn't have any such thing, only having guitar centre type offerings. it's a major city with a population of 5+ million in the metro area so there's bound to be some demand for the high end stuff- none of which is on offer at any of the current shops. one other big factor is that i live in canada so i know the struggle of having to buy in the states, paying import duties, taxes, etc. i'd love to "try before i buy", but we simply lack such luxury here for the most part when it comes to higher end gear.

    i've got a great eye for design and could put together a beautiful shop, but i know next to nothing about business and am wondering what all it'd take to get started.

    i'd like to speak with someone more business minded than i who could give me some honest feedback re: the plausibility of such a venture headed by me; someone with no real-world business background.

    it's something that has been on my mind a lot lately and i'd really love to make it work within the next couple years.

    am i just a dreamer?
     
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  2. Totally Bored

    Totally Bored Member

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    Maybe there's a reason why the High end stuff is not offered in the stores in your area :dunno


    Good luck :dude
     
  3. rickenbackerkid

    rickenbackerkid Member

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    I wish you luck, but I think you’re nuts. Anything high end is a ruthless business.
     
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  4. paulscape

    paulscape Member

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    It's all about marketing. PM me and I'll give you Facebook address of a store thats near me. They always upload videos of new gear, demo's, advice on setups, weekly second hand gear showcases etc and it really helps get customers interested to visit the store.

    Also I lived in China for 12 years and saw a lot of boutique shops that did really well by marketing only high end gear. Their specialization outcompeted the generic and low budget stores - this goes for musical instruments, audiophile hi-fi up to automobiles.

    I say go for it. Allow work to fill the gaps around what you love in life rather than life to fill the gaps around what you work in life.
     
  5. CyberFerret

    CyberFerret Member

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    I have that dream every now and then, but I think the reality is that any 'high end' store in this day and age is an endangered species.

    Take a look at the other sections on this very forum. When you talk 'high end', you are going to get people who nit pick and fuss over that very last 5%. It has to be *perfect* (for them) or else no sale. Expect HIGH return rates.

    Which is why most stores cater to the 90%ers - the low end market of kids and parents who don't really know (or care) what they get, as long as it is endorsed by a super star or has lots of mainstream advertising behind it. That stuff will walk out the door.

    It must be telling when large, long term music stores in the centre of some of the biggest cities on the planet are closing their doors of late.

    I live in a small town, and we are down to only two music stores here - incidentally, now owned by the same guy. Nice stores, but full of low to mid range gear. They have a couple of 'high end' guitars in there, but they have been sitting on the wall for years now.

    Admittedly, it is a small market here. But given my geographic isolation and the general high price of gear in Australia anyhow, it is always tempting to buy gear online. On principle I do not go into the store to 'try' anything before buying online (as I like the guys who run the store), but I know a LOT of local musicians who do.

    If it is something that you really like to do, then I wish you good luck, and deep pockets.
     
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  6. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

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    It's a nice thought, but it never works out.
    If you have a few million to spare, try hookers and blow, ultimately more fun, and more satisfying.
    Or just give it to me. Quick, easy, painless, and ultimately the same outcome.
    I have run a successful business, and it relied on daily cash-flow. A high-end guitar store could go for days without a worthwhile sale.
     
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  7. teledude55

    teledude55 Member

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    I thought of this as well. I think the only place it would really work would be in a major Music city like NYC, L.A., Nashville (maybe). It's hard to sell $1500 guitars these days, finding buyers willing to break out $5k+ will be tough.
     
  8. weenerdoggs

    weenerdoggs What's Up Dogg?

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    Hi,

    I work (part-time) at a mostly high end store. It is a tough go but a few things can make it possible. The lack of competition in your area could be a good thing. And there are some great Canadian builders, like Morgan etc. So you do have some fine instruments being made in country.

    A few things that will usually help a shop do well.

    Great staff and a very strong repair service.

    Great music teachers and a solid lessons service. The shops that have had the best success employ the teachers and also promote their great gear.

    Top notch customer service.

    An online store.

    Enough space to both display and store merch. About 30-50% of a store is 'storage' for all the cases and stock.

    Now to be fair, it is a very difficult business and many shops have come and gone. High end merch can be a hard sell. But still, those with a bit of cash and an eye for quality will put out $$$ for good gear.

    If you are truly considering this adventure I would take a road trip to about 5 cities that have these kinds of stores and talking with their people. Pick the ones that have been around for 15+ years.

    Good luck with your adventure!

    J
     
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  9. DustyRhodesJr

    DustyRhodesJr Supporting Member

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    About 10 years ago a high end dealer opened here (medium sized town),
    we also have a GC.

    That shop advertised like crazy, even did radio remotes every weekend.

    It didnt even make it a year, someone told me the owner lost over $100,000
    on it, and that is not counting the gear he had paid for that he still had to sell
    at whatever price.
     
  10. sleewell

    sleewell Member

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    Sounds like a quick path to bankruptcy.
     
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  11. H. Mac

    H. Mac Member

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    It's a good idea, but a guitar business is more about business than it is guitars.
     
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  12. Ches

    Ches Supporting Member

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    That's a great reason to not do it - at least not yet. Maybe you should start by taking some serious business finance classes at a local college. It's not fun or sexy, but in the end, success or failure usually comes down to how you handle money.

    Cool idea, though.
     
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  13. aussie_owner

    aussie_owner Member

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    How to make a small fortune in guitars: Start with a large fortune.
     
  14. rowdyyates

    rowdyyates Supporting Member

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    Truth. Loving guitars is enough to get you in a lot of trouble.
     
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  15. buddaman71

    buddaman71 Student of Life Silver Supporting Member

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    2 of my friends with decades of years experience in music retail tried to do exactly that a few years back. They even developed an excellent website to expand their reach beyond our geographical area. The carried Fender CS & MasterBuilt, PRS, /13, Splawn, 65 Amps, and other boutique items. They did everything "right" but the shop failed. It's a cigar/vinyl store now.

    I personally ran a retail store at the beginning of the boutique era, and its an extremely niche market anywhere. There are only a few hi-end customers in any market, and those guys, like a huge percentage on TGP, tend to want to haggle over every single penny then come back in 2 weeks later and trade it for the newest thing you got in. One would think GAS would help a shop like this, but it doesn't. The second a typical hi end client gets the new thing and gets his fix, the jones creeps back up and they come back in to trade, expecting the full purchase price, towards the next fix.

    It wrings every cent of profit out of the already super low profit business.
     
  16. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    Oodles of market research is required.
    Your local Guitar Center type stores are also trying to sell high end gear and will be in direct competition. The entire World Wide Web is also your competition as well as your customer base.
    The endeavor has as much chance to cause you to loathe guitars as it does to bankrupt you.
     
  17. scott944

    scott944 Member

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    This is the first thing I though of, as well.
     
  18. Tachymetres

    Tachymetres Supporting Member

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    Be prepared for a steady stream of customers who just want to try out your gear and then go buy it for less online. Best of luck to you.
     
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  19. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    Consumer behavior called "showrooming"
     
  20. Bozak

    Bozak Member

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    How would you get a steady flow of inventory for a low enough price? and how would you reach enough buyers that every other seller isn't reaching?

    I suppose an aggressive eBay/CL plan could get you the goods, the problem is if those sellers are low then how many buyers are there really out there? seems to me a store like this would stock and sit on a ton of inventory quickly, and not selling enough to make ends meet, let alone a decent profit.
     

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