Gibson boss slams retailers as troubles mount

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Henry Juszkiewicz

Gibson Brands boss Henry Juszkiewicz has slammed MI retailers in an outspoken interview with US magazine Billboard.

As previously reported in MIN, Gibson Brands faces a crisis with debt repayments totalling as much as $375 million due within months. With last week’s downrating by Standard and Poor’s, a  CFO lasting less than a year and predictions of bankruptcy openly being discussed in the media, Juszkiewicz used the interview to criticise retailers for what he sees as a failure to move with the times.

‘”All of the retailers are fearful as can be; they’re all afraid of e-commerce, with Amazon just becoming the second largest employer in the US, and the brick and mortar guys are just panicking. They see the trend, and that trend isn’t taking them to a good place, and they’re all wondering if there will be a world for brick and mortar stores for much longer. It’s a turbulent world to be a retailer, and many of our retail partners are facing that same issue.”‘

Juszkiewicz went on to add that the business had become too focused on guitar ‘purists’ and no longer served broader public, that guitar stores were unwelcoming, particularly to female customers, and that catering for guitar ‘purists’ made them uncongenial for the general public.

‘”I like to say, “You know where the good music stores are? Look in a city’s pornography district.” Sure enough, that’s where [they] are. Well, parents with kids don’t like to go into those areas to shop. Musicians don’t have a problem going into those areas – there are usually a lot of hip clubs around there, too – but this is how the guitar business took a hard left, and left behind a lot of consumers. We’ve lost a lot of consumers. Women, by and large, aren’t comfortable going to guitar stores. If you look around, you’ll see a few, but if they are there chances are they’re already musicians. You’re not going to mom and dad; you’re only preaching to the converted.”

“[The industry is] stuck in a time warp, and the ‘purists’ have a very loud voice on the online forums. If you are a kid today, you have an iPad by the age of two, and if you’re not offering new technology you’re old. Kids today may think some music from the 50s is kind of cool here and there, but what other industry do you know that hasn’t changed since the 50s? Those guitars from the 50s are what the purists want, but we have to have something new and exciting. Imagine if the camera had never changed. Innovation is a part of every business to some degree, but [the guitar industry] hates it. The kids demand it, and if you don’t have it, they walk.”‘