A Year in MI Retail: guitarguitar 


We have asked a range of retailers 3 key questions to find out about their experience of 2020. Today, Alice talks to Bobby Simpson, Operations Manager at guitarguitar. 

Q: To say 2020 was a difficult year in Retail would be an understatement, what was the one single challenge that stands out the most?

A: Closing our stores for long periods of the year, as well as making big adjustments to the way they run for the rest of it, was undoubtedly a challenge we had never properly prepared for.

Our stores have always been the beating heart of our business and are what we’ve built the company around; changing that at almost no notice involved a lot of upheaval, uncertainty and adaptation.

Fortunately, due to the attitude, experience and flexibility of our entire team we were able to pivot around responding to the increased demand for musical instruments online and quickly gear ourselves towards levelling up our online business.

Q: Of the ways you changed how you run your business, which one has been the most fundamental?

A: It definitely looks like the changes to the landscape of MI retail which were already taking place before 2020 have been accelerated by the pandemic, and everyone has been forced to reassess their strategy, as well as the habits and expectations of customers and staff alike!

Looking at fundamentals, doing more business online and less in stores is the headline message that I’m sure everyone has taken away, but it’s probably still too simplistic. When stores are open, musicians still want to visit them: we really felt that when we reopened stores following lockdowns and restrictions, which was really encouraging.

The future in-store is all about an enhanced retail experience and one of the ways we’re delivering that is through the new Roland Store concept which we’ve just launched in Glasgow; the first of its kind in Europe.

Staff working from home in sales, support and head office functions has also been a massive learning process for us; finding the ways to get the best from our team and keeping everyone engaged and involved has meant improving the ways we communicate around the business- a process that’s still ongoing and will continue into 2021 and beyond.

A truly blended model of e-tail and retail, where our customers get a consistent experience, advice, expertise and support whether they visit our website, talk to us on chat, through email, on the phone or come into any of our stores is really what we’re shooting for now. We’ve shown ourselves it’s possible- although undoubtedly we still have a lot to do.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest opportunity for your business in 2021?

A: It’s difficult to hone in too tightly on opportunities when the ground is still unsteady beneath our feet; with the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty about the Brexit deal added to supply chain issues with manufacturers and distributors, planning isn’t the easiest at the moment- and that feeling must be shared across a lot of businesses. What we are planning to do is stay agile, alive to opportunities as they present themselves, and flexible; to make changes and adapt as necessary, and to keep improving what we offer our customers throughout the process.