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Is Guitar Center Going Out of Business

Is Guitar Center Going Out of Business

The buzz about the possible downfall of Guitar Center Inc., the renowned go-to place for music lovers, has been rampant lately. Riddled with various challenges from all corners - be it the changing consumer behavior, declining footfalls, or financial adversities, the question of whether this iconic musical heaven is indeed going out of business is on everybody's lips.

Over the past few years, Guitar Center has faced scrutinies from various sectors – numerous reports and rumors alluding to its imminent bankruptcy have made repeated headlines. The uncertainties this company is going through has raised concerns, not just among the employees and business partners, but also among the millions of music enthusiasts who call this place a haven.

In the following sections, let's delve deeper into this topic and try to understand the reality behind these allegations. Is Guitar Center really on the verge of collapse, or are these rumors designed to create a frenzy? Let's unpack the facts and fictions surrounding this reputed and beloved institution in the world of music.

A History of Guitar Center

Guitar Center


Guitar Center, today known as one of the largest retailers for musical instruments in the United States, has an intriguing history. The company's origin dates back to 1959 when Wayne Mitchell, originally a seller of home organs, bought out his employer's store, The Organ Center. 

Later being rechristened as "The Vox Center" and selling Vox amplifiers, it wasn't until 1964 that the company finally assumed the name we know today, "Guitar Center." Initially focused on selling guitars, the store's first spectacular purchase was made that very year with 100 guitars bought from the Fender Guitar Company.

Over the years, Guitar Center has experienced steady growth, both in terms of its physical footprint and its customer base. With their first store opened on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the chain expanded their reach across the United States. 

Momentum was built in the 1970s and 1980s, with locations opening in San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago. By the end of the 1990s, Guitar Center was hailed as the largest musical instruments retailer in the country, boasting more than 50 stores nationwide.

I would argue the key lies in the engaging in-store experience and a broad range of high-quality products. Offering an array of instruments and gear, from guitars to drums to sound systems, and everything in between, Guitar Center has built a vast inventory satisfying both professional musicians and newcomers. 

Moreover, the company is recognized for its promotional efforts, running regular music competitions and offering music lessons, which undeniably contributed to attracting musicians and creating a solid customer base.

Is Guitar Center worth buying from?

Guitar Center Closing down

Guitar Center, as a well-established brick and mortar store, is often favored by many musicians for its capacity to provide hands-on experience before purchasing. The ability to try out a range of instruments, amplifiers, and other music gear constitutes a unique advantage over online retailers.

Additionally, Guitar Center has an extensive selection of new and used gear that suits different budgets, making it a go-to place for both beginners and professionals alike.

The customer service provided by Guitar Center can be another noteworthy point. Many locations are staffed by knowledgeable employees who are passionate about music and are ready to help customers find the right gear to meet their needs.

Furthermore, Guitar Center offers a range of services such as instrument repairs, rentals, and music lessons, offering an all-encompassing music store experience.

However, it's critical to mention that every shopping experience can vary, and some may not find the same level of service at their local store. Besides, some customers report that Guitar Center's prices can be higher compared to other retailers, especially online sellers. 

Therefore, it's essential to do thorough research and compare prices before deciding to buy from Guitar Center. In conclusion, it's fair to say that Guitar Center is worth considering for its wide range of products and the ability to test gear before purchase, provided that price comparisons are made.

What company owns Guitar Center?

Guitar Center going out of business

Guitar Center, the largest music store chain in the United States, is a household name for musicians and music enthusiasts alike. With an expansive range of instruments, equipment, and accessories, it has captured the hearts of countless music lovers since its foundation in 1959. 

But have you ever wondered who is behind this enormous conglomerate? The answer is Ares Management Corporation, a leading global alternative investment manager.

Ares Management Corporation, founded in 1997, is a publicly traded company, based in Los Angeles, California. Specializing in credit, private equity, and real estate markets, this firm has a history of acquiring and managing successful businesses across various industries. 

They have approximately $207 billion of assets under management, as of June 30, 2020. In May 2014, Ares took control of Guitar Center through a debt restructuring process, with a plan to reduce the company's debt by about $500 million and provide essential growth capital.

The acquisition of Guitar Center by Ares Management Corporation has had a significant impact on the growth and development of the iconic music store. While Guitar Center had been facing numerous financial challenges, including mounting debts, the new ownership provided the financial resources and strategic guidance to help the company thrive. 

With a renewed focus on expanding its online presence, improvements in customer experience, and emphasizing professional services, Guitar Center is forging a path forward to maintain its position as the go-to retail destination for musicians and music lovers worldwide.

How profitable is Guitar Center?

Guitar Center Closing

Guitar Center, with a legacy that spans six decades as a prominent fixture in the musical instrument retail industry, has experienced its fair share of ups and downs financially. While the company has historically enjoyed impressive sales, the question that arises is how profitable is Guitar Center today?

In the early 2000s, Guitar Center saw considerable financial growth, due in part to the acquisition of Music & Arts Center (a school music dealer) and Musician's Friend (an online music retailer). These acquisitions greatly expanded Guitar Center's customer base and retail presence. However, the 2008 recession resulted in a drastic dip in sales, which in turn led to the amassing of significant long-term debt. The situation necessitated the intervention of Ares Management Corporation in 2014, which led to a debt restructuring and an infusion of capital.

Under the banner of Ares, managing the company's debt and steering its future towards sustainability became a priority. Recent annual financial reports indicate improved financial health, with an increase in net sales during 2018-2019 periods. Guitar Center has also grown its online presence and focused on enhancing the in-store and online customer experience to stay competitive in the market.

Despite these positive developments, profitability remains a challenge for Guitar Center, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2020 to address its debt and received additional financing to restructure its operations. Continued efforts include renegotiating certain leases and a focus on deleveraging its balance sheet.

To summarize, while Guitar Center has made strides in improving its financial standing, profitability still requires ongoing attention and effort. The company faces the challenge of transforming itself in a competitive retail landscape, focusing on controlling its debt and solidifying sustainable, long-term growth.

Challenges Faced by Guitar Center

Much like many retailers, Guitar Center has faced substantial financial challenges throughout the years. Significant debt acquisition, primarily due to leveraged buyouts in 2007, cast a wave of burdensome repayments on the company. 

The negative repercussions only escalated with dwindling in-store sales, part and parcel due to consumers' shifting preference towards online shopping. Additionally, a decrease in spending on music equipment, as newer generations veered toward tech gadgets, resulted in a considerable dip in the company's revenue stream.

The financial woes of Guitar Center were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The forced closure of non-essential businesses around the world, including their brick-and-mortar stores, led to a significant drop in sales during the first half of 2020. While it seemed that the surge in quarantine hobbyists might salvage sales, the impact of the ongoing in-person restrictions severely hindered this potential uptick.

Further, the evolving musical equipment buying trend poses another noteworthy challenge. The surge of numerous online platforms that offer more competitive prices and convenience has inevitably impacted Guitar Center's business. 

Consumers can now compare prices at the click of a button, while online reviews offer insights into product quality and seller credibility. This trend poses a significant threat to traditional musical instrument retailers and has undoubtedly played a role in Guitar Center's ongoing financial struggles.

Financial Health of Guitar Center

Guitar Center going out of business 2023

Guitar Center's financial situation has been the subject of persisting concern, as the company has long grappled with substantial debt. As reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2020, Guitar Center, faced with roughly $1 billion in debt and approaching interest payments, opted to file for bankruptcy in an effort to manage its financial obligations. This move came after numerous attempts to restructure its debt, bearing the ultimate goal of improving its financial health.

In November 2020, Guitar Center announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This filing was a strategic decision aimed at reducing the company's debt by $800 million, providing a lifeline to the troubled company. 

Along with the bankruptcy declaration, Guitar Center received up to $165 million in new equity investments to recapitalize the company and help navigate through bankruptcy proceedings.

Contrary to common misconceptions, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not signify the end for a company. Instead, it allows corporations to restructure their debts in order to regain profitability and continue operations. 

For Guitar Center, Chapter 11 provides the opportunity to renegotiate its debts with lenders and potentially to close underperforming stores, all while continuing to operate and serve customers. Thus, even amid bankruptcy proceedings, Guitar Center maintains an active presence within the retail music industry, offering some optimism about the company's potential for a more stable future.

The Future of Guitar Center

Guitar Center Restructuring

As part of their restructuring plan to revive financial health, Guitar Center seeks to cut its existing debt by around $800 million. This move allows the company to sustain in the long run by eliminating significant financial burdens. Securing fresh investments up to $165 million, these funds will be utilized to support operations including salary payments, vendor benefits, and ongoing business plans during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Moreover, to combat the current financial crisis, Guitar Center is focusing on ecommerce enhancements, given the mounting consumer preference for online shopping. By upgrading their digital presence and online capabilities, the company hopes to attract a broader range of customers and compete effectively in the ever-growing online market. 

Simultaneously, Guitar Center's brick-and-mortar stores will undergo evaluation; underperforming stores may be subjected to closure in an effort to increase efficiency and align with market demands.

The possibility of one of the largest music retailers closing its doors can have ripple effects on the music industry. Notably, musicians and consumers could face limited options to try products in-person before purchasing, which for many, is a crucial part of the buying process. 

Additionally, Guitar Center plays a key role in promoting music education through its lessons program and hosting nationwide music competitions – aspects that could face extinction if the company goes out of business. Consequently, the future of Guitar Center bears not just financial implications, but also potential cultural shifts within the wider music community.


In conclusion, Guitar Center's future is certainly not predefined. While they've been navigating through certain difficulties, this doesn't necessarily imply they're approaching extinction. 

With their recent emergence from bankruptcy and a new business plan focused on providing digital solutions and growth in the used gear division, there's potential for resurgence. Albeit changing dynamics in the music industry, Guitar Center remains a prominent player as they continue to serve millions of customers nationwide.

Moreover, these hurdles faced by Guitar Center could spark innovative changes. With a shift of trends towards online shopping and digital formats, they are presented with an opportunity to adapt and evolve their business model. 

Fulfilling the increasing demand for music lessons and contributing to the musical education of the regulars can also keep their business going breaking away from the traditional retail establishment image.

Lastly, it's essential to note that the market for musical instruments remains significant, and Guitar Center's rich history and loyal customers might help them to continue their journey through these turbulent times. 

Consequently, although the business has had its share of challenges, it's too soon to say that Guitar Center is going out of business. Their journey is a testament to the dynamic nature of the retail industry, ever challenging and ever-adaptable, a song filled with ebbs and flow.

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