Knowing competitive pricing can save money on musical instruments and gear

When one business dominates a market, customers often end up paying higher prices. Competition and product knowledge are your keys to saving money.

Within the past few years, Toronto based Long and McQuade has become the largest musical instrument and gear retailer in Canada. With 42 stores across Canada, they are the 800 pound gorilla of music retailing.

L&M own Yorkville as well which makes them a dominant wholesaler of amps, PAs and brand names like Gibson guitars.

The company has a good reputation for service, product selection and pricing. Now they are so big some people are concerned they might use almost monopoly power to control the music equipment business.

There are always choices in the market so consumers don’t have to shop at Long and McQuade. In Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, Steve’s Music is a strong competitor to L&M. Steve’s is a forty year favourite store of mine with it’s great inventory and pricing combined with rough and tumble retailing.

Wherever you shop for musical instruments be careful of the return policy. I recently got a shock when a big dealer tried to pull the no-refund & restocking fee policy trick on me. It was my own fault for not reading the fine print. I assumed they would take back defective goods but started to hassle me with a 7-day rule and 25% restocking. I had to get legal real quick to get a replacement guitar. L&M have a 30 day return policy except if you get it on terms – then it’s 7 days too. Ugly. I like Amazon.com and Best Buy since they take anything back for usually 30 days.

In local markets, music stores are learning to compete with this giant. In Moncton NB, a local music store featured guitar strings at $8 a package to demonstrate they were not giving up the business to a new competitor. In Oakville Ontario, one store competes by having rare signature guitars from Martin. They had an $8,000 Eric Clapton Bellezza Nera when I visited a few years ago. Awesome looking guitar.

Ramirez 1A Concert guitar featured at 12th Fret

Retailing is about product, price, location and service. A local retailer can outsmart L&M on any or all of them. Having a local expert who can make instrument repairs is an excellent way to differentiate a store from L&M who don’t have luthiers in every location.

12th Fret in Toronto on the Danforth compete by being simply the best and most knowledgeable guitar store in Canada. They are competitive on price but their customer service is awesome. The selection of quality guitars is unmatched. For example, while L&M stores have a few classical guitars, 12th Fret have the finest models from student to professional performance from Alhambra, Cervantes, Sergei de Jonge, Laskin, and Ramirez.

Long and McQuade meet competitive pricing

Long and McQuade are advertising they will meet any Canadian price and they do. I bought a pedal last weekend and they shaved $49 off when I could identify another store in Canada that sold it for less.

The important thing to do is research the instrument or gear you want on the web. Get competitive pricing and L&M will meet it.

Google is a good place to start looking for pricing. A smart phone can get you the competitive pricing while you’re in the store. I had to go home first, since like most people shopping retail the pedal was an impulse buy.

That’s where we end up paying more when shopping. Retailing is all about getting us to pick up the guitar or instrument and buy it on impulse.

I needed the pedal but I didn’t start the day thinking I was going to get one. The idea just popped into my head when I walked into the L&M store in Halifax. If I’d made the purchase then, L&M would have had $49 plus tax more than they got the next day. Luckily they didn’t have a Gibson J-45 in stock or I would have been much poorer.

L&M store staff are very friendly about meeting competition pricing so don’t be shy asking. To some extent it would be better for them to price the goods right on the shelf but that’s their management decision. The best deals go to those who research.

Some competitive and reliable online music retailers in Canada include Axe Music, Tom Lee Music , L.A. Music along with the ones mentioned above.

There is also plenty of cross border competition with stores like Musicians Friend among the many US based firms who sell into Canada. I used to worry about cross border shipping until Sobers Music. Every time I ordered a guitar, they got it shipped from the States. It didn’t take me long to realize I could get the same guitar much cheaper on the internet.

For most production guitars there is very little difference between one guitar of the same model and another. In the rare case when I wasn’t satisfied, they took the item back with no questions.  I’ve only had one DOA and that was from a Canadian source so luck is with me on that one.

L&M don’t meet competitive prices from US sources, or so they told me. In negotiations on a large enough purchase, they will no doubt be competitive.