What do YOU want from a small brick & mortar store?

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JamesSGBrownJamesSGBrown Frets: 32
Evening all :)

I'm going to be helping a friend of mine with the marketing for his shop- a fantastic store in Birmingham called The Little Guitar Shop. I've been shopping there for years and recently have built some marketing skills that I would love to use to help develop awareness of the store.

So as part of this I was looking to gather some opinions. I know we all do a fair amount of secondhand-buying online, and I guess a lot of us could agree that if the same bargains and deals were as plentiful on the high street then maybe we'd get out more and flip less (...okay maybe not flip less).

But what is it about the stores that you frequent that set them apart? Is it to do with their stock? Simply a matter of convenience? Their online content or a particular service they offer?

Conversely, is there anything you specifically dislike about the way certain stores market themselves or engage with the online community?

For me personally, I've always loved stores that provide interesting content that isn't explicitly tied in with clearing stock. Obviously independents in the UK most likely don't have the budget of, say, Reverb, but I love the interesting and varied content they put up regularly- history of quirky models, breaking down tones etc.

Any input is greatly appreciated!
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  • TA22GTTA22GT Frets: 295
    I have never bought anything from the Little Guitar Shop but it wasn't my fault!
    I wanted a high end Tokai semi but they had sold out and were waiting for stock. 
    Tokai are nortorious with their supply to dealers and the stock never came within a decent timeline so I bought elsewhere.
    I did however have a few nice conversations with Martin and I made a genuine note to deal with them in the future.
    I check their stock all the time.

    As for how do you market such a great and niche store I don't really know! They seem to have carved out a little haven for certain brands and more people need to know about them!
    They can't compete against the Andertons of this world but absolutely deserve to grow their market share.
    Genuinely decent stores need to stay around.
    Good luck and best wishes.
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  • JackobeanJackobean Frets: 187
    Website looks like it's been in operation since 1999, and I can't buy anything online. Sort that out first, then worry about competing with Andertons via social media.
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  • SporkySporky Frets: 13547
    First off, thank you for being up front about the relationship you have with the shop - not everyone has that level of respect.

    I think any small shop needs the basics - strings and plectrums, cables, possibly a handful of get-you-through-the-evening's-gig valves.

    Then it gets tricky. At the moment I'd like a fanned-fret 8-string or a posh offset (G&L or Anderson). But the shop will probably make more of a living from good starter instruments. 
    Be your own evil twin. 
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  • p90foolp90fool Frets: 8331
    Turnover of used stock is critical in my opinion. 

    My local shop is very good for this - he'd rather do a deal at a smaller profit than sit on stuff for ever. 

    This works well for him, simply because it's worth popping in at frequent intervals to see what he has in stock.

    Nothing kills a shop faster than calling in after a couple of months and seeing the stock is exactly the same. 
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  • thumpingrugthumpingrug Frets: 1196
    I echo what been said above, but will add that the shops I like best are those that are happy for people to try stuff.  No pressure and no dicks showing off with everything turned up to 11.  Somewhere with a relaxed attitude will make me want to return and buy more.

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  • gringopiggringopig Frets: 440
    The website needs a re-design I think. A lot of wasted space with the borders. You could get larger pictures of the gear and maybe a wee bit of consistency in the presentation of the items for sale. Too many shots of the guitars lying on guitar stools perhaps. To get me into the shop I would be tempted by better representations on the web page.

    It must be hard to find a niche in this modern world of instrument sales. I remember wee shops where you might find 1959 Les Paul specials hanging on the wall and all sorts of interesting stuff available. Buyers still need to buy strings and quite often I go into a guitar shop just as a pleasure trip and will buy a set just as a token gesture so maybe make the shop a fun friendly place and return visits will be made!
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  • SporkySporky Frets: 13547
    I echo what been said above, but will add that the shops I like best are those that are happy for people to try stuff.  No pressure and no dicks showing off with everything turned up to 11.  Somewhere with a relaxed attitude will make me want to return and buy more.
    This. If I'm trying a guitar I don't need to hear the shop-boy play it. 
    Be your own evil twin. 
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 914
    Been in there a few years ago, ..had some work done on my Taylor 414...no problem, good chat with Martin...I just don’t visit shops much, 


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
    Presonus Studio One Pro.
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  • NelsonPNelsonP Frets: 492
    edited July 11
    The stores I go to are the big ones. Because I can be pretty certain they have everything in stock.

    I recently bought a guitar second hand, online from a shop in wigan, symphony music. It reminded me that a good local shop is run by good people. Nice to do business with, knowledgeable, good prices on their products and very fair. It was a slightly unusual instrument and they had done their Google ad words homework and made it easy to find.

    The other thing that seems to be essential for a decent smaller store is a really clear point of difference - some interesting brands, a decent stock of second hand stuff, a great tech, strong knowledge etc.

    Online presence is a must, but you won't beat the likes of andertons, Dawson's, gak etc. Especially if you're trying to sell a white strat or sunburst les paul.
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  • JamesSGBrownJamesSGBrown Frets: 32
    Thanks for the reply guys!

    TLGS does have great stock of some more left of field brands, like Tokai, G & L (they have 3 Dohenys in), and Rickenbacker, which I know players would find interesting, especially with the incessant price hikes for the bigger boys.

    i agree, the website leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a bit Angelfire. They currently do more through Facebooks but it’s interesting to see that having a well kept shop front is still hugely important!
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  • scrumhalfscrumhalf Frets: 4847
    All staff must understand that those pople coming in through the door pay their wages, they don't want to be fobbed off by a scrote who doesn't care.

    If you go the extra mile for your customer, your customer will travewl the extra mile to buy from you.
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  • sawyersawyer Frets: 184
    Looks like they have some cool gear! Is that right payment by Bank Transfer only for mailorder? PayPal would be a better option id say. 
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3108
    I like the shop for looking at and Martin is a decent chap but the stock is too spendy for me so I've never really bought anything other than strings there. But that's because the stuff they favour there is above my price bracket, I'm sure they aren't over priced just more than I can justify.

    I'd say they have the customer experience thing right in store except for it being the size of my pantry, but I don't think there is any more space for demoing stuff there is there?

    I reckon Martin would be good at little info-demo videos about some of his unusual stock, might work well on Facebook

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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  • toescantalktoescantalk Frets: 76
    Sounds like you have someone in the shop that knows what they're talking about without being assertive. That's a local shop I'd visit.

    Website, lose the purple create more space as said above. Use the width of the screen (scroll left and right for new guitars for example). Frames are for mirrors.
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  • designerseye88designerseye88 Frets: 227
    Get that ranking up in google so we can find the shop when we search for guitars. 

    Update Instagram, Facebook regularly, Youtube videos are great

    make sure stock is kept upto date on website
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  • dangriffithsdangriffiths Frets: 199
    Personally I want decent stock of more niche brands along with some bread and butter stuff. 

    For anything consumable I usually use Amazon but local people still need strings etc. 

    For the rest I buy from Peach or Coda - I think their brand choices are great and cover a nice range. I will happily drive for 2.5 hours each way to either of them.

    What gets me about those two is how good their product knowledge is as it really helps to narrow down choices - they listen to what you want to achieve with the gear. Priceless for me compared to the terrible box shifter types who know nothing about what they are selling. 

    I do also buy from GAK as I have a few good contacts there who look after me and it’s a 5 minute walk. 

    Main things I want are friendly people who remember you and try their best to make you happy. 

    Any shop that wants to make money needs to have a decent e-commerce site - doesn’t need to cost a fortune but does need doing well. 

    A great example of a smaller online retailer that does it differently is Home of Tone. Great brands, quick to respond and has a personal touch in each package and a little gift or stickers etc...sounds minor but in a world of boring brown paper deliveries something personal stands out to me at least. 
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  • JamesSGBrownJamesSGBrown Frets: 32
    I like the shop for looking at and Martin is a decent chap but the stock is too spendy for me so I've never really bought anything other than strings there. But that's because the stuff they favour there is above my price bracket, I'm sure they aren't over priced just more than I can justify.

    I'd say they have the customer experience thing right in store except for it being the size of my pantry, but I don't think there is any more space for demoing stuff there is there?

    I reckon Martin would be good at little info-demo videos about some of his unusual stock, might work well on Facebook
    There’s a whole other floor and a basement! Again- stuff that should maybe be pushed more. All the ricks live  on the 2nd floor...it’s a beautiful site 
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 18672
    I think used stock is the area where a small shop has the best chance of differentiating itself, along with offering  p/ex and commission sales.

    Ultimately owner run stores have the ability to build lasting customer relationships which are harder to achieve in high volume environments. 
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7099
    I hadn’t looked at their website for a while; they used to have pictures of guitars that had already been sold which was a bit annoying so it’s good that stopped. The video page seems a bit redundant - lo fi videos of guitars that don’t reflect stock, although it’s easy to ignore. 

    As for in store, I’m not sure although I was put off Fair Deal for a long time by their stupendously rude service. So, not rude service.

    It’s likely to be part of a trip out with MrsTheWeary so somewhere there are other things to look at; MrsTheWeary knows that area better than me in this case but anyone unfamiliar with the area might want to know it is by pubs, coffee shops, restaurants and some of the most unique jewellers in the U.K. The other guitar shops in Birmingham are in less interesting places ( positively bleak around PMT) so for some customers that seems a strong selling point. 

    TBH I’m a big fan of any shop with a nice toilet. 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 54
    If the location is to stay the same it has to be set up and sold for what it is. This is not a big open store but is an interesting, friendly customer focussed operation that is a rabbit warren of treasure, and it needs some customer planning.

    I have bought a couple of guitars from TLGS, and each time I go, there have been various numbers of visitors around in the middle of, or waiting for, transactions of some description and the layout leaves little space for browsing (or even waiting) which may put people off. Not to mention parking which is difficult unless you have been before and know that you can drop into the loading bay and an eye out will be kept.....

    I agree that with the slightly left field stock, Tokai, G&L, own brand pickups etc there is a youtube opportunity and the website does need a makeover, but I really like the store and the staff and it is going to be a potential hazard to my wallet managing a project a mile down the road for the foreseeable future!
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 845
    I use the same shop as @p90fool and can vouch for the system they operate.

    He always has a fair selection of the usual suspects but the best thing is the commission sales. It's worth going in just to see what has arrived.

    He has established the shop as a community musician resource, I bought my first guitar there 30 years ago and my last one about a month ago. Even if you are not in the market for a guitar it's worth seeing what exchange pedals are in, I've picked up some bargains and I've probably paid over the odds at times but it all goes to keep the shop running.

    Every Saturday he has a local musician to entertain the customers, you can pop in for a (free) coffee and just enjoy listening the performer he has on that day. Some young, just starting out, some rockers, some blues, whatever, but some are phenomenal. You don't have to buy anything.

    He has young kids in with their mum's buying violin bows or you can buy a top dollar Rob Williams creation. Or if you have itchy fingers, you can just go in and pick something you like the look of and have a play around with it. The lads that work there will have a conversation with you and you can sit outside smoking and putting the world to rights.

    He doesn't do internet sales at all.
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • NelsonPNelsonP Frets: 492
    If possible, separate soundproof booths for trying stuff out is cool. For the staff as well as the punters.
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  • artiebearartiebear Frets: 97
    Two things, honesty and relationship. Thing is ,they work both ways 
     
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  • TA22GTTA22GT Frets: 295
    artiebear said:
    Two things, honesty and relationship. Thing is ,they work both ways 
     
    To be honest that is what I felt whilst dealing with them. Martin wanted to give me what I wanted and if Tokai had played their part I would be a happy customer of theirs.
     
    He even emailed me , as promised, whilst I was away in South Africa and I was so chuffed I even called him back.

    It may have just been a phone call but you pick up so much from a conversation.
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  • skunkwerxskunkwerx Frets: 1327
    Research your demographic and cater to them, which you already started on. 

    Also survey your customers. Ask them what it is that makes them use TLGS. 
    See if a trend develops. Then if its a unique one, pitch that as what sets you apart from the rest. 

    Build on the good reviews you’ve already got. I googled the little guitar shop and google shows a 4.7 out of 5 star rating, with 36 reviews. 

    I’d shop there based on that. But the higher number of reviews means more people will take interest I reckon. 

    Aldo ask people why they wouldnt use TLGS. 
    See if you spot trends in the answers there, and then see if you can add it to your services. 

     
    The only easy day, was yesterday...
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  • valevale Frets: 1036
    edited July 12
    p90fool said:
    Turnover of used stock is critical in my opinion. 

    My local shop is very good for this - he'd rather do a deal at a smaller profit than sit on stuff for ever. 

    This works well for him, simply because it's worth popping in at frequent intervals to see what he has in stock.

    Nothing kills a shop faster than calling in after a couple of months and seeing the stock is exactly the same. 
    this is a huge thing any little shop needs to get right if it's going to survive in these times.

    you've got to make patrons feel that if they are in town every weekend & they don't make the effort to drop by, they run a big risk of missing out on something really interesting that won't be there next week.
    FOM ('Fear Of missing Out') is as big a driver as desire & need as a customer motivator.

    so that will mean making decisions that prioritise perpetuating fast turnover above per item profit. maybe some part-ex thing you thought you would make £50 on, you only make £25 on.
    but the important thing is to keep stock fresh & prices sharp.

    as @p90fool said, if a customer comes in four weeks on the trot & the stock hasn't changed, then realisticaly (we are all busy) why would they feel they need to come in more often than once every month?

    being knowledgable about gear & always up for considering part-ex options will also help.

    re online content, this is one of my favourite shopmade demo videos, because it is so 'just get on with it' basic & instantly (2mins) tells you (eyes & ears) all you need to know about what a new piece of gear is & what it's potential is as a player.
    hit &run, thanks for the time. i love it. every little shop should have a demo ike this for every bit of gear, if they can find the time (liven up those quiet monday morning shifts).

    if you want to go into serial numbers & fine condition details you can just call or email the shop.
    but the bare bones of 'what it is & what it does' are so simply & quickly laid out before you that it makes those who rely on huge production values, lame bantz or pseudo drama to do the same job, look as if they are totally missing the point. tv & film can do that stuff better than music shops, so i think bare bones & back to basics is where it needs to stay.

    it also helps that this guy is an endearing character & a superb player. he runs through a bit of everything, clean, dirt & verby, a perfect instant sampler of the scope this little burns can cover.
    & i love that modest little thing he does at the end of his closing run. as cool as f*ck.
    *sniff*... *nod...* ('now get outta town...').



    & finally, really think local not fretboard. the fretboard core demographic may well not be the core demographic of your primary market. i think it's generally older, wealthier & more male than average. not in any way a criticism, just an impression.

    so if a ton of people here are saying 'stock loads of rare fenders & gibsons' & you are operating in a town with a big college or major uni & a huge contingent of young impoverished players who want to flip the squier-epi they bought last week for a squier-epi you have this week, you need to think about keeping that stuff on constant rotation. & tailor stock peaks to student loan cheque time (beginning of each semester). they like affordable & change often.

    anyway if the shop is already established this is granny teaching you how to suck eggs, but maybe something in there.
    hofner hussie & hayman harpie. what she said...
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3237
    Some of the previous contributions seem to assume that a music retailer is free to choose exactly what to stock.

    Many distributors insist on a structured account. In order to have the super expensive signature guitar or amplifier, there will be an obligation to take three or four of the next level down the price pyramid and a shedload of the beginner/intermediate models.

    Generally, the proportions of this pyramid will reflect the proportions at which the different price points sell in the so-called real world. There may also be an obligation to hold a minimum stock level.

    Finally, some distributors do not like having retail outlets whose catchment areas overlap.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • FuengiFuengi Frets: 585
    My favourite guitar shop is Guitar Sound in Chichester. The website is always updated, when you go in they are super friendly and enthusiastic, and they are competitively priced.

    They stock interesting new models across the price range - Fender, Martin, Guild, Faith, Sigma, James Nelligan - and have a good selection of used instruments and amps for a small shop - enough to make you want to pop in to see what they have in. 

    They also commission a local builder to make guitars for them to sell in store. Again, this must help footfall as I'll go in to see what is available. They probably stock three builders guitars at a time at around £1k each. 

    The other thing is that all the guitars and amps are available to play and you will be encouraged to do so.
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5027
    I've used the LGS once before and found them very personable, I bought a 1965 Tele Bitsa off them. For LGS in particular, I found a good selection of stock, I would personally have liked a little more vintage stuff but thats just me and the parking isn't great there although I'm not sure what they can do about that.

    As for what I want in a Guitar Shop, I'd like a good selection (and turnover, great point of this above) of quality used gear, a welcoming atmosphere, perhaps some rugs on the floor, old music/gig posters things that would appeal to guitar nerds.

    One thing that puts me RIGHT off in any shop I go into is an assistant hovering round in case I touch anything or "DO NOT TOUCH" signs on the expensive guitars (as if I am going to take it down and swing it against the nearest wall like an axe - we're guitarists, we appreciate the instruments...) or THE WORST is one of those little black alarm wires threaded through the strings so you can't take the guitar down.

    For me, Chris at @ampguitars in Macclesfield has it pretty much nailed, the decor (as mentioned above), stock selection and just general customer care is A1. I've been in perhaps only 5 times (we've since become pals on Facebook) and he greets me by name, offers a cup of tea straight away and we sit and chat about music, what's come in, what's coming in, what's gone out, he understands what I like and suggests some stuff, all in a no pressure environment. So much so, of the 5 times I've been in, only once have I not come out with a new guitar which were mostly unintentional purchases! 
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  • iain.reverbiain.reverb Frets: 238
    Evening all :)

    I'm going to be helping a friend of mine with the marketing for his shop- a fantastic store in Birmingham called The Little Guitar Shop. I've been shopping there for years and recently have built some marketing skills that I would love to use to help develop awareness of the store.

    So as part of this I was looking to gather some opinions. I know we all do a fair amount of secondhand-buying online, and I guess a lot of us could agree that if the same bargains and deals were as plentiful on the high street then maybe we'd get out more and flip less (...okay maybe not flip less).

    But what is it about the stores that you frequent that set them apart? Is it to do with their stock? Simply a matter of convenience? Their online content or a particular service they offer?

    Conversely, is there anything you specifically dislike about the way certain stores market themselves or engage with the online community?

    For me personally, I've always loved stores that provide interesting content that isn't explicitly tied in with clearing stock. Obviously independents in the UK most likely don't have the budget of, say, Reverb, but I love the interesting and varied content they put up regularly- history of quirky models, breaking down tones etc.

    Any input is greatly appreciated!
    I deal with a lot of stores similar to TLGS, some do incredibly well and some are hanging by a thread in the current industry climate. If you or TLGS want some advice and support, drop me a line and I'd love to help as its a great store.

    The key things that separate the successful from the struggling is finding the niche that separates you from the competition and mining that seam around the clock, whether its focusing on used or boutique or something else.

    Content marketing can be amazing, but it takes a lot of time/effort/resources and can take a while to see ROI. Consistency is key in doing content marketing and you need to be able to generate content on a weekly/monthly/daily basis for it to really work for you. 

    Its better to focus on things that will see immediate returns in the short term like overhauling the website and investing in google shopping/adwords. Look at the quality of pictures for the stock as that's what drives sales online. Pick up a cheap ring light or softbox on amazon, turn a small space in the store into your photography area, it doesn't have to be huge, some stores screw a guitar hanger into the back of a white painted door and get great results. A semi recent smartphone will take good enough pictures so the investment here doesn't have to be much. 

    As far as a website goes, it doesn't have to be a huge investment either. We do a free one that I could have up and running inside a few days for you but there are other platforms that are relatively easy to use and inexpensive. Don't get an outside agency or designer to build you one. 

    Drop £50 on getting a new logo or branding done from Fiverr or another service marketplace. Currently the visual branding of the store isn't that engaging.



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