Gibson Garage London to offer 'ultimate guitar and music experience'

Gibson Garage London to offer 'ultimate guitar and music experience'

Who said High Street retail was on the way out?

After a challenging period for music and entertainment brands, HMV has recently returned to London’s Oxford Street with its flagship store. And this week, the Gibson Garage London flagship opens in the West End (61-62 Eastcastle Street).

The opening to the public on Saturday (February 24) marks the first ever launch of a flagship store for Gibson outside of the US. The guitar brand has a 130-year history and has become a central part of music culture.

With a stage in the lower level, Gibson will host weekly live performances, showcases and panel discussions from musicians and artists. The Gibson Gallery will celebrate the photography and art of British artists and musicians. 

UK guitar legends getting involved for the launch included Noel Gallagher, who signed 20 ’78 Les Paul Custom guitars for sale in store (profits go to the Teenage Cancer Trust). A media event was attended by musicians including James Bay, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page and Sir Brian May.

Here, Beth Heidt, chief marketing officer, explains how the guitar brand will be aligning with British rock history and new talent for the UK expansion…

How significant is this move for Gibson launching its first flagship store outside of the US?

“We are thrilled to bring the ultimate guitar experience to more fans around the world. London is one of the birthplaces of music culture and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Building upon the success of the Gibson Garage Nashville, expanding our locations around the world was the natural evolution. We are poised for the Gibson Garage London to be a vital part of the London music scene and global destination, just as the Gibson Garage Nashville has been.”

Why was it important to launch this store in the West End of London in particular? It’s not too far from the new flagship HMV music store…

“We know the West End area is in the process of undergoing a much needed revival and we are excited for the Gibson Garage London to be a meaningful and vibrant addition to the music community. The Gibson Garage is exactly how we want our fans to experience Gibson; an immersive dream space where fans walk in and say, ‘This feels like it should have always been right here.’ 

“London has a highly influential music history, and our goal with the Gibson Garage is to support and enhance our music community. The Garage is designed to enhance the London music community with a live stage featuring performances, and events from music icons and emerging artists on any given day. It’s also an exciting place to experience music and lifestyle through Gibson instruments, sound, media, and apparel. We hope the Gibson Garage will have a dramatic impact on the London music scene in addition to becoming a must-see destination in the city. We fully expect the Gibson Garage London will have a massive impact on the local music community, just like our Gibson Garage Nashville.”

What will the immersive experience mean for customers, how is this taking Gibson into a new era in terms of the retail offer?

“Aside from being a stunning space to immerse yourself in all that Gibson has to offer, everything in the Gibson Garage is available to pick up, plug in and play. We want our fans to try out every instrument to be sure they get the right fit.

“Our Gibson Garage experts onsite know the history of the brand and have deep knowledge of all the products we have to offer at the Garage. From shopping for your first guitar to creating your one of a kind custom instrument through our Made To Measure experience, we pride ourselves on having excellent, approachable, and unpretentious customer service to help you find your dream guitar and the absolute best fit.

“Beyond the retail experience, the Gibson Garage London is about storytelling and connecting to music fans through cultural programming including masterclasses, artist interactions, music lessons, unique exhibits including historical instruments, fine art installations, live performances and more.” 

How will you draw on UK music heritage for the store alongside Gibson’s own historic brand?

“The Gibson Garage London is the ultimate guitar and music experience and features uniquely British cultural discoveries around every corner and level. Music fans will enjoy the Gibson Gallery, a bi-annual art exhibition that will celebrate the photography and art of British artists, photographers and musicians. The inaugural exhibition at the Gibson Gallery will debut with an exclusive collection from legendary music photographer Gered Mankowitz. For the past 50 years, Mankowitz’s portraits have helped to shape the iconic images of music’s key players. The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, PP Arnold, Kate Bush, Elton John, The Jam, Eurythmics, Oasis, and many more have all looked down the lens of Mankowitz’s camera. This Gibson Gallery exhibit will also feature rare and unseen portraits from Mankowitz’s unrivalled archive and is curated by RedHouse Gallery in association with Iconic Images. 

“Also, the Gibson Garage London has a state-of-the-art stage area and, like the Gibson Garage Nashville, it will feature artist performances, events and showcases with Gibson artists, in addition to a regular showcase with the Busk In London programme which showcases top talent around London.”

PHOTO: (L-R) James Bay, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Sir Brian May (credit: David Hogan)

It’s a huge store, who is your target audience in terms of customer and their level of ability? 

“Whether you are a seasoned professional musician, a casual guitar player, a beginner, or simply a music fan, the Gibson Garage London has something for everyone.

“At the Gibson Garage London, music lovers can design their own Made To Measure guitar inside the Gibson Custom Shop by selecting a unique guitar top off the wall and choosing the specs inside and out. The Gibson Garage London features a special, dedicated acoustic guitar room with one of the largest displays of Gibson acoustic guitars in the entire UK, as well as areas for Epiphone electric, acoustic and bass guitars, and the biggest display of Kramer guitars in the world. At the Garage, fans are welcome to pick up and play all things Gibson, Epiphone, Kramer, MESA/Boogie and Maestro, and enjoy a massive display of exclusive Gibson apparel, gifts, and lifestyle items, as well as gear and accessories.” 

How much of a destination will this store become in terms of customers across the UK/tourists? 

“We are located at a special cross-section of London between Oxford Street and Denmark Street with incredible music heritage. We want the Garage to become your favourite local guitar shop for those in the area, to be the ultimate music destination for those visiting London. We know we will draw music lovers globally just like we do at the Gibson Garage Nashville with this European flagship.”

Do you have ambitious targets? How have guitar sales performed in the post Covid period?

“As we are a private company, we can’t offer exact numbers, but we can share that the Gibson Garage Nashville exceeded far beyond all of our yearly projections within only a couple of months. We are seeing more engagement with guitarists than ever before and continue to grow our market share.”

How are you working with artists and the music industry to make this a destination for music fans and aspiring artists?

“We have strong relationships that last a lifetime with all of our Gibson, Epiphone, Kramer, MESA/Boogie, KRK, and Maestro artists.  We provide new ways for fans to connect with our artists across our platforms, locations and stages. Our Garages are made to become hubs where the community can host events like listening parties, fan engagements, meet-and-greets, lessons and live performances. We support emerging artists and icons alike and work across the music ecosystem to reach as many artists and fans as possible.”

Guitar music has not been the most fashionable genre in recent years. Why do you think rock/alternative endures so strongly for both live and recordings, and what’s the outlook for new talent breaking through?

“Gibsons have been in the hands of top artists since recorded music began. Top charting musicians such as Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Olivia Rodrigo all play Gibson and Epiphone guitars. We are here to foster and engage the generation of players. Guitar-driven music is always at the heart and soul of all genres. Fans are connecting with artists more now than ever through social media and content. New talent has more of a chance than ever before to find an audience.”

For all updates on Gibson Garage London events and performances: @gibsonguitarUK.


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