Musical instrument retailers need to address reality. Their main competition is Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, Amazon, etc. Online outlets. A few of the smart retailers have started stocking hard to get guitars and selling them online. I read about one who said his shop was dying until he started stocking boutique stuff and offering it online. And 90% of his business was now online sales. Same deal for the guy in Wisconsin selling jazz guitars. Online is his only hope. There is little market in Wisconsin, or anywhere outside of New York City, for jazz guitars. But online, he sells to the whole world.
I have been going to musical instrument stores since the 1970s and they have almost always been cluttered, unhelpful, or hard sells. Even Guitar Center, which was one of first to allow you touch instruments without getting permission, or haggling on price, has issues. You can play any guitar hanging within reach. But I guarantee it will not be in tune. You could tune it by ear if some show-off wasn’t trying to impress everyone with how loud he can play the same 70s riff over and over. One time I went in and they had music blasting out of the store speakers. How do you try out a guitar if you can’t hear it?
Apple stores on the other hand are neat and organized. Although I think more people go there to hang out and try then to buy.
Why are malls dying also? Because retail is dying. Or in transition. If musical instrument retailers want to survive they need to offer more than just a wall of Squire guitars. Something you can’t get online. Like maybe a good shopping experience. Or clinics. Or concerts. Or jam sessions. Or support for local bands. I don’t know.
I believe guitar sales have been in decline for a few years now. I know my number of guitar students has declined in recent years.