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Nation & World

Guitar Center looked ready for its swan song

But the chain is gearing up for an encore

Nick Papageorge, a salesman at the Guitar Center store on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, grabs an Ibanez electric guitar for sale, off of the wall on November 7, 2012.  The country's largest music retailer has been losing money in the past four years, with some analysts speculating they could be heading towards bankruptcy.  (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Nick Papageorge, a salesman at the Guitar Center store on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, grabs an Ibanez electric guitar for sale, off of the wall on November 7, 2012. The country's largest music retailer has been losing money in the past four years, with some analysts speculating they could be heading towards bankruptcy. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Guitar Center officials hope to make their stores more welcoming to budding and veteran musicians alike who are ready to spend money on equipment, supplies and other goods and services.

The privately held company has been on a perilous financial path, with analysts recently raising concerns that the Westlake Village, Calif.-based retailer might run out of money.

In mid-April, S&P Global Ratings lowered Guitar Center’s corporate credit rating to selective default, signaling that the world’s largest music-instrument retailer was at risk of bankruptcy.

Guitar Center staved off those concerns for a few years when later that month it refinanced its $1 billion-plus debt from a 2007 leveraged buyout.

The company’s viability now depends on how well management can execute its turnaround strategy, which includes expanding into higher-margin services and growing its Music and Arts business, which sells band and orchestra equipment, according to an S&P analysis.

The chain has a store at 4651 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids.

Guitar Center has seen some recent success: Same-store sales were positive the last two quarters of fiscal 2017 after negative trends for the previous two years. That’s particularly encouraging in an industry where scores of retailers have gone under in recent years as they struggle with online competition from Amazon and others.

Since January 2017, the number of high-profile bankruptcies has been staggering — Toys “R” Us, Vitamin World, Gymboree, Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and the Limited among them.

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