Before the pandemic forced many retail stores to close seven weeks ago, a majority of Flipside Music’s business was from local customers, some of whom would come in to hang out, make weekly stops to pick up strings, buy gear or try out any of hundreds of guitar effect pedals.
But once coronavirus hit, the music store started selling a lot more gear online. Orders came in from states that were some of the first to implement stay-at-home orders — like Washington, California, New York and New Jersey — as well as from other places around the country, and even from New Zealand.
Flipside also saw an increase in orders for starter acoustic guitars, which sales manager Dylan Washburn credits to a lot of people wanting to learn guitar while spending more time at home. People were also buying higher-end guitars, something Washburn guesses might be from musicians receiving government stimulus checks.
Rupp’s Drums owner Alex Simpson notes that e-commerce has picked up over the past seven weeks, with the shop selling gear on Reverb and eBay and shipping it around the country. Simpson says a majority of his customers are buying essentials like sticks, heads and hardware, but he's also sold a number of high-end items.
At the Music Go Round location in Aurora (one of four in Colorado), manager Ian Gilchrist says his store has seen an increase in online sales as well, particularly in tube amps, higher-end guitars and a lot of pedals. Although a lot of musicians have lost gigs over the pandemic, Gilchrist says he hasn't experienced a surge in musicians trying to sell gear recently, but he's heard that pawn shops are getting flooded, and he's noticed a lot more people selling instruments and equipment through Craigslist.
Although Flipside usually buys and trades used gear, Washburn says there haven’t been a lot of players trying to sell equipment there, either. “I think most guys that I know are holding on to their stuff and are doing a lot of recording at home,” he says.
For his part, Simpson says spring is usually the time of year when Rupp’s sees an increase in used-gear buying, and the number of inquiries the store has received for used purchasing/appraisal over the past seven weeks hasn't dropped as a result of COVID-19.
Both Music Go Round and Flipside have been doing curbside business for the past couple of weeks. Gilchrist says they had a table in front of the store where they could do normal business, but people couldn't go into the store to try out gear.
This Saturday, May 9, Flipside will reopen in a limited capacity. There will be a check-in process at the door, and everyone will be required to wear masks and sanitize their hands. Washburn says he’ll try to limit the number of people testing out equipment.
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“If somebody really needs to try something specific, we can figure it out, but for the most part we're going to try to keep it to a minimal amount of testing,” he says.
Since Flipside is known for its extensive selection of guitar-effects pedals, Washburn adds that the shop will probably require that customers buy the same pedal they tested to avoid any kind of cross-contamination.
Rupp’s plans to open on Monday, May 11, with strict precautions in place.
“While we do plan to continue being the only drum shop in Colorado open seven days a week,” Simpson says. “we will be limiting the number of employees and customers in the building. We will also require all employees to wear masks, and we plan to enforce strict social-distancing guidelines within the store. While we are excited to begin serving our in-store customers once again, our first priority remains the safety of our customers and employees. We will follow every CDC, federal, state and local safety guideline to the letter in order to ensure that our store remains a safe and healthy environment for all.”