H Juszkiewicz (HenryJ), on 18 July 2010 - 05:07 PM, said:
I have to make a bold statement, which many of you may not agree with.
The reason that small dealers are dying is because consumers will not support them. In a free economy, it is you the fan and the customer who gets to choose by spending your hard earned money. If you spend your money at small dealers, I can guarantee Gibson and everyone else in the industry will be there. The fact is, as a group, you do not spend your money there.
There is not a single consumer who does not look at Thoman's catalog offerings in Europe. His prices are incredibly aggressive, the service is exceptional and he has a 500,000 square foot distribution center that ships product to most consumers within 24 hours. He has millions invested in inventory.
He is an aggressive and competent business man who is able to make a profit even though his prices are very low (very low profit margins). No small shop in Europe can stay in business at his very competitive prices, and so where do consumers buy?
Since I have been in this industry, I have found it to be the most price oriented business in the world. Every guitar player seeks out the lowest priced product, and then goes to the local shop and says, "Sell me your guitar at this price or I will walk". These small shop owners gets dozens of calls every day from people shopping price. If they put their inventory online, the situation gets even worse as guitar players will shop the world and hammer the poor small business person. Come on guys, who is going to tell me they know a player that paid more of a guitar because of a relationship. Yes it happens, but not enough to support a small shop. People do not as a rule pay more regardless. I don't think they should have too. I think the fan is always right, and we are there to service our valuable fan. And the best way to get a lower price on a product is to buy from an aggressive merchant that does high volume and probably has only so-so service.
Look at other industries. Look at consumer electronics. How many small stores are left. Where do you buy a big screen TV: Best Buy, Dixon's, Amazon or Joe's TV Shop? Why is Walmart the largest retailer in the world, because they charge higher prices, and have a more limited selection?
Brands and companies react to what consumers want. That is the only way we can succeed. My sin is that I have studied other industries and have gone to where consumers are going before other brands and companies in this industry. I have used strategies and tactics that allowed brands and companies to thrive, and ruined companies that did not adopt them. The sin is to give to consumers what they really want based on their buying behavior.
People bring up stores like Centre City Music, and Gruhn's as small merchants. They may have smaller stores, but they are some of the largest volume dealers in the country and they are extremely aggressive in pricing as is the great store in Cologne which is building a new distribution warehouse with thousands of square feet.
We do our share to support those retailers that have a good customer base. We have Business Development Managers that help them with annual business plans, District Product Specialists that travel to the store and help with training and merchandising, Relationship managers that provide direct line account support, and an extensive 24 hour computerized systems allowing account management. We give smaller dealers significantly better credit terms than large dealer because the smaller guys have a harder time with financing. The average store turns a guitar 4 times a year (Thomann probably 20 times a year) and we extend 90 day terms meaning we fully finance the independent store site. This cost $$$$ money. We cannot support a single store visit that can easily run $1000 when the store sells 10 of our instruments a year, let alone the rich support each of our retailers get.
While you may complain about the demise of small local retailers, it is not the brands and companies that are killing them. It is the price driven consumer. It has happened in every industry, and it is now happening in ours. I think, the consumer and fan are always right.
Thanks for this clarification. It's good to know you are helping the smaller retailers so much. Sorry to hear that the guitar business has become "main stream".
The prices that Thomann are able to offer at, in comparison to the "retail" prices in CH or France for that matter, makes the local and French prices here "seem" scandalous. (Thomann sells a SG Standard for €975, for €999 you can get a cable, extra strings, a strap, set of picks and Gibson Luthiers Choice cleaning solutions). Compare that to the retail price of the same guitar at €1390 and you have to choke as the consumer... But this consumer base is 1/10th that of Germany. There's one local company that is famous for selling more guitars in the area than all the other guitar shops combined. Reason? Price. He works out of dirty "hole in the wall" storefronts and sells guitars at a discount, he ships so many that he makes it up on volume. No other shop in the local area does this. They can't afford to. So yes, it's the consumers fault, but does the "poor, starving artist/musician" still hold true? Does that not have an influence as well? I also find it hard to imagine that Gibson guitars are consumed like Big Macs?
I've also glimpsed the reseller costs for these guitars, they only make about €300 to €400 per "mid priced" guitar, my BFG for example. I don't think this has a lot to do with Gibson, and more to do with the importer, if the Swiss importer mentality holds true for the guitar business as well. I'm waiting for the change to happen here too. Last month one of the local small guitar retailers has recently announced 25% off everything in the store as they are closing their doors (it's a horrid shop actually, service was always horrible and their idea of a Luthier was a joke..). They have some SGs (Specials) which haven't moved, mostly because even at 25% off (and the recent price changes here), they're still more expensive than the "one local company".
I know you probably won't answer this, but I would be curious to know if you're using the Custom Shop and the high priced models to keep the company afloat, while offering the lower end models at an affordable price for the "regular" musician.