Situated on the edge of the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, A Strings has proved that a guitar shop doesn’t have to be in a prime city centre location to succeed, having doubled in size in just three years, writes Gary Cooper.
Owner, Andrew Morgan, grew A Strings from a string distribution business (he is the official UK importer of the highly regarded German Optima Gold string brand) into a retail business, opening just three years ago. Treforest might not have seemed the ideal location given the widely held belief that an upmarket music shop can only thrive in a prime city location, but Morgan proved his point in August by taking the retail unit next door and doubling his floor area.
‘The shop has actually benefited from the location, because we’re not in Cardiff,’ he says. ‘We’re about 10 or 15 miles outside of the City but there’s a really strong live music scene here and the shop itself has some big advantages, too. For example, we’ve got free parking outside which they haven’t got in Cardiff. People had to go to Cardiff before but now they’ve got an option and we now get people from all over the area.’
Morgan feels that a key part of his success has come from concentrating on major brands and he has called on their distributors to help with his display – with some striking display results.
‘We’ve got a Fender Premier Dealership, we do Gretsch and Jackson, we’re a Vox Diamond Dealer, we do Hughes & Kettner, Martin – the big brands that we’ve brought to the valleys. People walk into the shop for the first time and they think all they are going to see are the cheaper brands, but we’ve got the major brands.
‘There have been plenty of shops that have come and gone around here over the past 15-20 years, partly because they’ve been catering for people’s first guitars as opposed to their fourth, fifth or sixth. We started with a few good dealerships and it has grown from there, in fact to the point earlier this year where we were struggling for space, so when the unit next door became empty, we went for it.
‘We’ve had a really good reaction from customers. We have dedicated areas, we’ve started teaching at the front of the shop and we’ve also taken on new brands – Hughes & Kettner, Cort, Hagstrom, offering something new for the customers.
‘We’ve had great support from the trade in our expansion, particularly Korg and Fender, who have helped with displays and the front windows. We’re on a main road and the elevated train line from the Rhondda valleys down into Cardiff runs in such a way that when you look out of the window you look straight at these wonderful images of a massive AC30 on one window and a gigantic Stratocaster that takes over two others.’