guitarguitar becomes the largest Scottish headquartered company to transition to an Employee Ownership Trust, completing the transaction on 28th January 2022.
The company started off in Corstorphine, Edinburgh and is now headquartered in Linwood in the outskirts of Glasgow. guitarguitar sells more than 50k guitars each year from its 6 stores nationwide and the online store.
The company’s owners, Graham Bell and Kip McBay were adamant that they didn’t want guitarguitar taken over by “suits”. When one of their key suppliers, Taylor Guitars based in San Diego, moved to employee ownership in January 2021, Graham and Kip started to explore whether that would work for guitarguitar. They spoke to Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug and also Julian Richer of Richer Sounds and decided this was the right move for their company. Working with EY, Lindsays and OAUK, the transaction completed in January 2022.
There was a lot of thought given to the best way to announce the move to the 160 employees. The initial plan was to do a “roadshow” and visit all the sites to give the news directly. However, it was felt that it was only fair that every employee heard at the same time. It was decided to do a live broadcast that would go out to all of the stores, with the Scottish employees congregating in the new Linwood warehouse. It worked so well! Graham and Kip explained the reasons behind the move, and there was a lively Q&A with employees asking a total of 64 questions via an interactive app. To top it all off, Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug of Taylor Guitars sent a video message congratulating guitarguitar on their employee ownership move. They visited the stores often and said they were the best merchandised music stores in Europe, with great people.
Graham said: “Our team are over the moon to find out that they now own a share of this incredible business. guitarguitar’s success is a result of the commitment and hard work of our staff and we have now decided to take the next step and give them their own piece of the company.
“We’ve spent the last 20 years building a brand that we are wholeheartedly passionate about. We wanted to ensure the business means something to future owners when our time comes to take a step back.
“Not only did we want to reward staff for their efforts at the company but we also wanted to ensure our customers will always be front and centre. Every experience a customer has at guitarguitar will now be with someone who is invested in and committed to delivering outstanding service to musicians.”
The firm has an annual turnover of £45 million and is the first musical instrument retailer in the UK to take the step into employee ownership, an increasingly popular business model.
Their operations manager, Bobby Simpson, said: “This is a fantastic day for the team at guitarguitar. What a brilliant start to the year knowing that Kip and Graham have full confidence in every staff member to continue and develop the guitarguitar legacy.”
Technical Director, Mark McKenzie, described the response from staff as “phenomenal”. He said “Everyone has been so positive. This is an incredibly generous and visionary move by Graham and Kip and it’s up to us to make sure that guitarguitar continues to give brilliant service to our customers and maintain guitarguitar’s place as the go to retailer for world class service and the best guitars in the world.”