Writing Center
Fall 2010 Edition

The Retail Market and You

Marc Forrester
Argumentative 1010 Honorable Mention
Professor: Charla Strosser

In the modern day it has become much easier for people to make purchase from big companies or, more frequently, online. People are purchasing items from these places in hopes of getting a better price. However, the benefits of purchasing from a small retailer largely outweigh the slight price increase, and these include service, customization, and helping support the local economy. Working with people in person can help one get discounts on repair work needed in the future. On the whole, it is much better to purchase from a local retailer rather than a big box store or web retailer.

Luke Heaton is a luthier in Cedar City, Utah. He owns and operates Whittlesticks, a musical instrument shop. While speaking to Luke about the difference of purchasing from a local store versus the internet, he says the only reason local stores are still open is because of service. When a person purchases an instrument over the web or in a big store, if something is wrong with it, they have to send it away to get it fixed. In a small store, it can be fixed that very day (Heaton). This provides a clear advantage over the large retailers and internet sellers. A major problem with the large stores is the method of presentation they decide to use. Almost all large guitar stores let anyone off the street walk in and start playing a guitar. Some of these people may not have been playing very long and can damage the instrument. These stores don't have a repair shop on site, and the instrument would have to be sent away to be fixed. Web stores don't face the problem of people off the streets, but their instruments sometimes fall victim to the forces of the United States Postal Service. Without proper packing, the instrument can arrive broken. While most websites offer free replacement service, it can take weeks to get a new instrument back. The small store clearly is superior in this aspect.

A person can also haggle with the small store owner, whereas large retailers have moved away from this, and one can forget about haggling over the internet. Stores are always purchasing more items and strive to rotate as frequently as possible. Music stores in particular like to have the newest items on the wall. Musical instrument companies, much like car companies, come out with new models every year, some with many new advances in hardware, pickups, and electronics, and some simply in a new color. The longer an item sits, the less likely it will sell at standard markup. A local retailer who has merchandise in the store for a long period of time will be more likely to haggle about the price. This can lead to a fantastic find for the purchaser, and it helps the owner of the small store get new stock in.

The personal interaction a person has with the owner of a local store also keeps people coming back, whereas the multitude of salespeople at the big stores and the complete lack of them online are not as inviting. A friendly person who knows about his or her line of work is a big plus. Small business owners are passionate about what they do. They strive for quality, value, and a good purchase. Big store employees are not always as enthusiastic. Though there may be a few who are knowledgeable, most of them are high school students looking for a job. They aren't nearly as knowledgeable as the small business owners, and their information on the instruments is usually wrong. A passionate person who knows what he or she is talking about is the one I'd go for.

Though it is true that a small store has a multitude of positives, there is one thing the large stores and web retailers have over it. Large stores order in large quantities, and in turn get a larger discount from the manufacturer. They have a smaller overhead to pay for, and can move merchandise more quickly. Web stores have even less overhead because they typically operate out of one factory and get the same corporate discounts as the large stores. This leads them to offer prices that can be much lower than a small store. This may seem like an incredible advantage, but the money isn't all going into the small store owner's pocket. A small store has a larger overhead to pay comparatively. It has to pay for use of the building, pay all the employees, utility bills, and also keep merchandise on the walls. This leads to a higher price, but the service offered at the local store beats its competition.

The higher price paid offers something in addition to service. The money that is spent locally stays local. All profits earned in a small store goes to the owner and employees. They, in turn, will go spend money at other businesses, some local, and in turn help the economy. Money spent in a big store will go to the employees, but a large amount goes back to the corporate offices. On the web, none of it will go to the local economy, unless the web store happens to be based in that city. The stimulus of the economy will eventually help everyone living in that city. This leads to a better quality of living for everyone, and increases the chances of more businesses opening.

It seems logical that a big name store would have a wider instrument selection than a small store. They would have a larger sales floor and could rotate their stock with relative ease. Today, however, most big stores make most of their money selling cheaply made import guitars. They are typically made in a factory in Indonesia or China. What many consumers don't realize when choosing a brand of import guitar is that it was probably made in the Samick Guitar Factory. The Samick Factory has been building guitars in Indonesia for a while, and since has been contracted by many companies to build import guitars for them. Luke carries the Samick guitar line, an affordable alternative to the big name companies. These guitars are the same quality as their brand name counterparts, and they are, as Luke said, "A lot of guitar for a little money" (Heaton).

Luke also offers something no big retailer and very few web retailers can offer: a custom shop. If one likes something on the wall but wants different pickups, hardware, color, neck shape or electronics it can be done in very little time. If one sees something he or she likes, but wants it in different woods, it can be done. It is definitely more expensive than purchasing a stock instrument, but much more worth it in terms of quality and value. A local luthier can make an instrument for $2000 that would match the quality of a $4000 big brand instrument. Instruments made from such builders are very highly prized for their quality and value. It may seem strange to say that $2000 is an excellent value, but when compared to the competition selling guitars of upwards of $20,000 it is an excellent value. The reason they can sell quality instruments for a significantly lower price is simple: their name doesn't have as much clout as a big brand. Gibson Guitars is an example of a company selling instruments for a much higher price than its competition selling a comparable instrument. Smaller builders operate custom shops that not only offer quality, but a better protection plan and guarantee. This is because they build a smaller volume of instruments than the big names and can take better care of the customer.

Luke builds custom electrics: solid, hollow, and jazz. He also crafts acoustics of all sizes. In addition, Luke builds and sells handmade instruments from the violin family, the mandolin family, and the ukulele family. Because of this, Luke has a big corner on the instrument market in Cedar City and has managed to stay open for a few years now. He offers a variety of stock instruments with many custom upgrades available. He credits this to service and feels this is the only reason small businesses remain open. In addition to helping the local economy, buying from local stores gives one many advantages over the big box stores. It is clearly the best option.

Work Cited
Heaton, Luke. Personal Interview. 20 Oct. 2010.