Barnes and Mullins

Barnes and Mullins

Sheehan’s and Hartnoll closures mark grim start to 2017

Two major independents head list of failures

Two major UK guitar retailers, Sheehan’s Music of Leicester and Tone Station/Hartnoll Guitars of Plymouth have closed in the past week, heralding the start of what has become an annual cull of music retailers in the opening weeks of a new year.

Sheehan’s Music, started by Noel Sheehan in 1984, had been hailed as one of the trail-blazers in UK guitar retailing. Specialising in acoustic guitars, it regularly hosted Acoustic Avalon, one of the major acoustic music festivals in the UK and claimed to have been Britain’s longest established guitar show.


Founder Noel Sheehan left the retail business three and a half years ago to pursue his successful G7th Capo venture, which he had launched in 2004 and which remains in business. The shop, having moved into bigger premises and expanding into with a tuition academy was being run by former manager, Richard Thompson.

Speaking with MIN, Noel Sheehan said: ‘I have been humbled by the amount of support we have received from the trade, who have been wonderful to us, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. In essence what went wrong was timing. We had a great plan to do all the things we needed to do to combat the Internet, Amazon and so on, but almost as soon as we moved, the climate that we were trading in altered completely.’

MIN understands that the teaching academy being developed by Sheehan’s under Richard Thompson’s guidance had around 400 students at the time of closure.

Tone Station/ Hartnoll Guitars founder, Jamie Hartnoll, commenting Facebook said: ‘It is with great regret that I have to announce the closure of the Tone Station/Hartnoll Guitars Ltd. A number of factors have lead to this reluctant decision, some personal and some business. The industry is struggling to support retail shops up and down the country. I know several other shops have closed this week and countless in recent years.’

Hartnoll’s Facebook statement explains in detail his feelings about both the individual closure and the problems facing UK retail – click here. Speaking with MIN, he confirmed however that his recently started distribution venture, RJH Guitars, which he runs in partnership with Richard Harfield, continues.

‘Whilst I am leaving musical instrument retail, I am not leaving the industry together and have shifted my attention from retail to distribution with RJH Guitars Ltd. This is a distribution company, currently bringing in Recording King, AXL and The Loar guitars as well as Turkish Cymbals. We have reps on the road across the south right now and are working on increasing coverage, supply and support for 2017. It’s great to be bringing these fantastic products into the UK, all of which have been well received by the industry and press and I am looking forward to watching it grow over the next few months’.

Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports of other music retailers having closed due to adverse trading conditions, with four shops having ceased trading in the West Country alone.

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