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Mystery Shopper: The Guitar Store, Southampton

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Mystery Shopper: The Guitar Store, Southampton

The latest Guitar Jar Mystery Shopper features The Guitar Store in Southampton. The Guitar Store is packed full of high end electric guitars, amps and boutique effects with the addition of a separate acoustic guitar store next door.

…if you’re in the market for guitars and accessories that sit in the higher end of the price bracket, or you’re a fan of the boutique pedal scene, I thoroughly recommend visiting The Guitar Store…

Another road trip this week finds me stuck in a huge traffic jam down the A34. Any UK drivers among you who regularly drive the length of the A34 will know how annoying the lorry drivers are on that road (overtaking each other at such a slow speed, usually uphill) and what a nightmare that road is when there’s a traffic jam.

Turning to my Sat Nav for some divine guidance to pull me out of the mire, the Tom Tom took me off the A34, cross-country through Twyford and Eastleigh. Seeing that I was so close to Southampton, I figured I’d I may as well investigate The Guitar Store, a shop I’ve been curious about for quite some time; I stumbled across their website a few months ago and I was so impressed by the web design, I hoped their store would live up to the same standard.

The Guitar Store is situated just a 30 seconds walk from Southampton train station, making it a perfect location for potential shoppers who can’t or do not choose to drive. Drivers can park directly outside the shop too, in a small Pay & Display car park. Space is limited and costs around 70p per 30mins, but be warned; the traffic wardens are apparently very hot around that area, especially as their HQ is in the same building block as The Guitar Store!

The outside of The Guitar Store is fantastic; designed to look like an old Fender Champ style amplifier and the adjacent Acoustic Store is fashioned in a similar “amplifier” theme.

Walking into The Guitar Store, I literally took a step back in amazement due to the seriously impressive range of electric guitars on the walls. Beautiful high-end examples from the leading guitar brands can be expected. Like wise, the effects pedal range is just as impressive, focussing on what seems to be the high-end boutique market. They have a huge array of boutique pedals on display including items from manufacturers such as Keeley, ProTone, Visual Sound, Subdecay, FullTone and many more.

With regards to the guitar amplifier selection, again, you were almost spoilt for choice, but it was the selection of Rivera amps that really caught my eye.

The service in the shop was engaging, knowledgeable and friendly. On entering the store, two or three customers were being served and informed accordingly, and I was soon approached asking if I needed any assistance. I thought I’d challenge the staff somewhat, asking what they recommend for a low-gain overdrive pedal, that isn’t in the Tube Screamer mould. It has to be said, their knowledge was excellent, even debating about the possible differences in tone (if any) between the various versions of Fulltone’s OCD pedal.

I was given the opportunity to try some pedals; they set me up with a Rivera combo (sounded great!), an American Telecaster and all the time in the world to play around with a selection of effects they recommended.

The acoustic store is situated two doors down, in the same row of shops. Both guitar shops sandwich a drum store, so in theory, if the band you play in fancies browsing and trying out some new kit, all members could happily spend a fair amount of time enjoying themselves… except maybe the singer. That’s OK though, I’m sure there’s a hair salon close by that they can indulge in ;-).

I have to hold my hand up in saying I’m no expert when it comes to acoustic guitars. It’s only through a couple of friends and my passion for Guitar Jar that my knowledge of the acoustic guitar market is beginning to be broadened.

I saw a good selection of Gibson, Takamine, Ibanez & Tanglewood acoustic guitars represented but it was the selection of Martin acoustics that really impressed me; it just seemed to stretch across one side of the shop! Many of the acoustic guitars for sale were priced in the early £1000’s (and higher), which in my limited experience of the acoustic guitar market, makes me think their selection is of quality. The vibe in the acoustic shop, unsurprisingly, was even more chilled out; one guy finger picking (amazingly well) and a member of staff happily working on a bass guitar.

Summary:

What a fantastic couple of guitar shops. The Guitar Store, where all the electric guitar magic happens, is full of high quality instruments & amplifiers with an impressive selection of boutique pedals that in my opinion is just as good, if not better than what you’d see down Denmark Street.

Chatting to the staff was interesting, as they all pride themselves on the fact that they’re gigging musicians who try their best to have a “real world” understanding of the products they sell. They also informed me their website is updated on a daily basis, and to use their words, the website is “their baby”. I really like the quirky design of their website, which was the main reason I originally wanted to seek out this store.

If you’re in the market for guitars and accessories that sit in the higher end of the price bracket, or you’re a fan of the boutique pedal scene, I thoroughly recommend visiting The Guitar Store.

Maybe next time I’m stuck in a traffic jam, I may rely on the Sat Nav to take me off course more often. God Bless the A34 and its annoying lorry drivers!

Have you visited The Guitar Store in Southampton? If so, please give your Mystery Shopper comments below.

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

2 Comments

  • I know exactly what you mean about the A34, however as I live Twyford/Eastleigh way I can visit the Guitar store without venturing down the A34, along with Nevada music (just along the M27) in Portsmouth. The Guitar store were previously “M&M music” in a very dodgy part of town although I bought my first acoustic from them 12 years ago and spent ages in the shop as a student.

    I last went in just before Christmas after a high end Gibson. As I now don’t look like a student they let me play a load of ES335’s, 125 and 356’s including a couple vintage instruments that would cost my marriage if I bought one. In their previous incarnation the store staff were rather snooty and difficult, however over the last couple of years they have become far more friendly, letting me play almost anything I want to for as long as I want (and as loud as I want). Although they didn’t have quite the instrument I was after, their selection was the best I have seen in this country and beat Denmark street hands down. In fact as high end Guitar shops go this is probably now the best store I have visited in over twenty years of playing – let’s just see how long it takes them to go bust after their amazing recent outlay in high-end gear…

  • Thanks for doing a review of an independent store away from London.

    Too many years ago as a learning and skint teenager I was made to feel so inadequate and stupid by staff in Fret Music Southampton, that I never returned and instead have spent (too) many thousands of pounds and many happy hours shopping at various outlets throughout the south, including The Guitar Store (and MM music as it was before). Sometimes their new members of staff have taken on the muso condescension style, but the bosses soon knock that out of them thank God!

    In my view they have always carried a healthy stock of high end items and clearly this works for them as they seem to be going from strength to strength.

    As a retailer myself, first and foremost I need to make the sale and earn a living, but I realise the value in repeat business and treating my customers properly and with respect. Too often as passionate musicians, we tolerate crap service as we salivate over our latest desire hanging on the wall. I happen to think these guys buck the trend and good luck to them.

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