Tis the season to think about retail sales

I was going to start this off like the first Lord of the Rings movie, with a heavy-handed monologue about how the world is changing, and how much that once was is lost….it’s true, but it seemed a little much.

Still,  I am going to reference not one, but THREE science fiction/fantasy movies in this post, why you ask? Mostly because it’s a fun device and I’m a bit a of a science fiction nerd, but also it illustrates a point that is along the whole ‘future is now’ kinda thing.  The world of retail these days sometimes feels like it’s straight outta Brazil (and that’s the movie not the country, so there’s a fourth reference.)

As the one who handles all the complicated yet-non-guitar-oriented problems, I have to deal with our own form of the Matrix. Any wholesaler  in the current retail environment has to deal with them: Fulfillment Systems.  What is a fulfillment system?  Well in a nutshell, it’s a way to take all the personal interaction out of making sales.

Think of any big-box, or catalog merchandiser, and they all use fulfillment systems, Amazon, Musician’s Friend, Guitar Center, Best Buy, and they can be very useful.

No one is immune, we are all part of the machine.

So this holiday season, when all the ads and graphics depict happy shoppers bustling through stores and being out in the world, a lot of what is  really happening is this:

We get the purchase orders,
We fulfill the purchase orders,
We provide shipping information (tracking numbers)
We get paid.

It sounds great, and sometimes it works just fine, but a lot of times it doesn’t.  A lot of times I’ll get an order from Musician’s friend for guitars they want shipped in 3 months time. When I want to explain to someone that we won’t have them in 3 months time, but I can ship them now, I can’t get that message across. I don’t know how to talk to the system.

Have you seen  that anime movie Akira? I haven’t seen it for a long long time, and I don’t remember much of it, but there ‘s a line in there that sticks in my head, when this spooky old guy whispers ominously it has already begun.  And the main characters stare off in wonder at the realization that this thing cannot be stopped. It sticks with me because there’s some universal truth in there that you see in real life every now and then. In so many big large systems, you never realize the full implication of implementing that system  until it’s too late to shut it down.  Can you imagine a life without Amazon?  Maybe you can, but it would be terribly inconvenient.  it has already begun.

The thing is, that by and large, we like our customers, we like to interact with them.  Store owner and players, we have a lot in common with them, and taking that out of the mix seems like a loss for everyone.

It’s a wierd time right now for retail, and I imagine it will be some time before the dust finally settles and consumers decide what kind of retail experience they want.  We are partial to the cluttered, quirky guitar shops and hope you are too. (they tend to be the ones that carry our guitars) Think about them when you do your holiday shopping this year, if you like the human beings that work there, stop by and let them know. You might pay a little more, but think of it as investment into keeping the Matrix at bay.


A special thanks to some nice young men working the counter at Guitar Center, sorry I forgot your names, but here’s a link to my Esty page: