Long live the high street music store, says Fender boss

The boss of guitar brand Fender has insisted that there is still a place for physical retail, even as the company pours more money into digital areas.

Andy Mooney, chief executive of the American firm, told the Press Association that musical instrument shops will survive because customers need to interact with the product.

“For a guitar, a lot of consumers will not commit to buying unless they physically pick it up,” he said.

“Because how it fits in your hand, how it sounds through the amplifier of your choice, is really important.”

Half of Fender’s sales still go through physical channels, with many made in independent shops.

“The pendulum is swinging a little more, but I don’t think it’s going to swing all the way just because of the dynamics of the product,” said Mr Mooney.

He added that despite the problems endured by entertainment stores such as HMV, there was room for growth in music shops due to the resurgence of vinyl.

Fender sales
Fender sales

Fender is also working with its dealer network to improve in-store sales.

Mr Mooney said: “I think they’re missing a tremendous opportunity by not making the in-store experience more hospitable for new players generally, and women in particular. That means literally having more women on sales floor in store.

“I’m seeing modest improvement, but I think the industry could move quicker than it’s moving right now to take advantage of that.”

Fender’s research has found that half of new guitar players are women, making them a key target for the company.

“That was a shocker,” admitted Mr Mooney, who commissioned the research when he joined the company from Quiksilver four years ago.

“And I think the reason that the team never had any visibility to that is that those women were not comfortable buying in traditional bricks and mortar stores.”

Fender has now ramped up its own efforts to attract women customers by working with a higher number of female artists in its marketing.

It also launched Fender Play in 2017, an online learning subscription service which appeals to new players. It is fast approaching 100,000 users.

Mr Mooney said its success has had a positive impact for the network of shops stocking its products.

He added: “What we found is simply marketing Fender Play has caused people to go: ‘oh I’d like to learn guitar’ and then going to the local guitar shop. So we are actually driving more growth at the front end.

“We’re pretty optimistic about what it can do for the industry overall.”