I thought I’d kick-off my musings with one of my favourite subjects.
My Local Guitar shop used to be called Wishers. It was run by a guy called Mark Hopkin. Mark had excellent product knowledge, his prices were fair and realistic. Although as a pimply teenager they didn’t see that much of what little money I had. Later the Hopkins sold the business to Carlsbro. The shop got a lick of paint and looked a little bit generic. The range of guitars seemed to go down. There was less used stock and no rarities. It was never quite the wonderland I remembered as a teenager.
The shop changed hands again, eventually becoming part of the Soundcontrol chain. Now Soundcontrol have been on a bit of a spending spree in recent years and have bought all the Carlsbro/Academy of Sound shops, not to mention Musical Exchanges in Birmingham. They have sort of become the Dixons of the musical instrument world, or at least are trying to be.
Now heres the rub. Everytime I try to use Soundcontrol, they simply never have anything I want. I tried to buy a speaker lead the other day, y’know the one that goes from your 100 watt head to your cab. Yeah you can use a guitar lead, but the voltages are much higher than a normal guitar lead is suitable for, so really you need a lead with a much thicker core. Otherwise in the long term, things may fry and that’s expensive.
Now I would expect an employee of said shop to understand such a principle. However he did not. So after trying to sell me a cheap 1/4″ guitar lead, they admitted they were out of stock of proper speaker cables til Thursday. Needing said item ASAP. I ended up buying a speaker cable online instead. What about plectrums, surely a big chain store will have plenty of those…….
.70mm Dunlop Yellow Tortex…..”err out of stock til Thursday mate”.
I always hate the way people in music shops use the term mate. It’s usually the same way a backstreet mechanic uses the term when they are standing their ground over charging you £80 for changing a sparkplug or something.
While I was there I glanced at their prices. Generally you’d expect a company such as SC with massive buying power to be able to undercut all the smaller retailers??????? Surely???
£1049 for a Gibson SG Standard?
The dollar is …what… $1.87 to the pound? The list price in the States is about $1700. That’s just over £900. Remember people that’s the RRP. Most American shops will go significantly lower. But they’re in America I hear you say?
A quick internet search of UK retailers reveals GAK are doing the same guitar mail order for £799. Now surely SC could be competitive on this. Now I know Gibson like to crank their prices up on a regular basis. But a £250 price difference between two big retailers?
Surely Soundcontrol’s days are numbered. In days gone by maybe hire purchase and credit cards would have given them more business. But with the UK approaching consumer credit meltdown how can they sell guitars at this price?
And what happened to Mark Hopkin? Well he now runs http://www.guitars4you.co.uk/ a quick glance at their website reveals a healthy set of prices and a comprehensive range. Particulaly if PRS, Dusenberg or Musicman are your thing. Theres a tasty looking Fender Texas Fat Strat in the used section. Although I prefer the white ash finish of my friend’s example.