The Boutique Space: Gear Collector Featured in Music Inc. Magazine
We are very pleased to share that Gear Collector has been featured in the June, 2016 issue of Music Inc. magazine, one of the top trade publications for the music retail industry. Katie Kalius talks with co-founders, Rich Abronson and Marc Reiser, about the Gear Collector business model, the company’s relationships with builders of boutique guitars, amps, effects and accessories, and some of our future plans boutique guitar retail. We’ve re-posted the full text of the article here, and you can also download the a full PDF version from the Music Inc. website.
Rich Abronson and Marc Reiser were two MI professionals with serious addictions — to gear. With both having experience in the boutique market, they saw a need for a space that showcased and supported the small builder.
“Boutique builders are the best of the best when it comes to their craft and the understanding of wood, electronics and putting all that stuff together,” Abronson said. “These guys live and breathe in their workshops and that doesn’t leave much time to market. And for that reason a lot of boutique builders kind of maintain a comfortable volume, but they don’t really break out of that level.”
Enter Gear Collector, a full service e-commerce site and marketing platform, which Abronson and Reiser launched in January 2016 to showcase small builders and their goods and to create a community for those who collect and play boutique gear.
“We saw that there was an opportunity to do something to help some of these builders develop their brands, build them out and start to develop some volume and expand but do that in a comfortable way,” Reiser said. “And it is also an opportunity to engage the customer and really create a conversation between the builder and the customer and pull in some exciting professionals — like touring musicians and studio folks who also collect and play boutique.”
Gear Collector is more than just an online marketplace for small builders — it’s a full-service marketing platform
MORE THAN E-COMMERCE
For some small builders who don’t have the capability, the e-commerce platform Gear Collector provides its builder base is essential. However, the boutique retailer is taking it one step further by offering its builders marketing services — something small manufacturers don’t always have the time or capicity for. In addition to assistance with branding and marketing, Gear Collector promotes its brands through its social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
“On the social side, it’s a great co-marketing campaign with our partners,” Abronson said. “We help get the message out about the brands that we are supporting and vice versa.”
For additional fees, Gear Collector will produce video and put together a more involved campaign.
“Beyond our shared model, we offer additional value-added services that are tailored to what folks may need,” Reiser said. “So, we are not a typical dealer. We are a hybrid of a dealer and a virtual marketing department. We are a centralized resource that these different builders can leverage.”
For builders who are looking to test-market a product, Gear Collector has the capability to conduct focus groups.
“Market research groups are something that we plan to build out over time,” Reiser said. “We have identified certain individuals — which we call power customers — that are really spending good money on a regular basis to fine-tune their collection. They really know their stuff and are users we can call on.
“For example, if an amp builder is thinking about a couple of new designs or wants to hear input on a new line, we can put a bunch of power customers in a room and run a focus group and talk about some new gear in an environment that can help the builder to come up with some new concepts without burning a lot of cash on mistakes. What’s cool is the customers are the influencers in our model. They can actually steer where some of this product development goes. Growing this [aspect] of the business is one of the next steps for us.”
Additionally, Gear Collector offers an ideal platform for one-offs and exclusives. “One of the really exciting things that we are focusing on are limited runs that the builders produce specifically for Gear Collector,” Reiser said. “One example of that is West Coast Pedalboard which we recently put up. They produced a set of the dyed pedalboards. They are really cool, purple and pink and blue. They had a teaser and they gave away a few of those at NAMM. That is an example of something that we are going to run exclusively through us.
“What’s cool is while we carry most of the standard line that all these builders produce, they are also doing some special things that will be Gear Collector only. And we are excited about offering that to our customer base.”
JOINING GEAR COLLECTOR
To maintain the boutique “vibe” of the site, builders who want to join must produce a unique offering and are required to fill out an inquiry form on the website.
“We have a very streamlined process to bring a builder up with us, once we’ve agreed to the terms of the relationship,” Abronson said. “It really makes it painless for the builder. More of the work rests on our shoulders. We are definitely interested in speaking with those interested in joining Gear Collector. This is a growing model, and we will continue to grow it from here.”
While the site focuses solely on guitars, amps, accesssories and recording equipment, Abronson said expanding to drums — and maybe even keyboards — is not out of the question down the road.
“Drums would be really cool, but we have a lot on our hands right now, so I think that will be some time from now.”
So, where do Abronson and Reiser hope to see Gear Collector in the next few years?
“I see us being the central destination for this segment of the market,” Abronson said. Reiser added that they would also like Gear Collector to be the go-to organization as far as strategical and tactical marketing for boutique manufacturers.
“I think some of our builders see the benefits of leveraging us as the central marketing department,” he said. “The beauty of that and this model is that the more builders we bring in and the more volume we bring, the more we are able to do and do it in a very central and efficient way. There are some opportunities we haven’t even unlocked yet. I’d like to be the go-to in terms of marketing in the boutique space.”