Guitar Center on Monday announced the appointment of retail veteran Jeff Gottlieb as president of its Music & Arts unit, an education-oriented rental and retail unit it acquired in 2005. Gottlieb reports directly to CEO Ron Japinga and will be based in Maryland at Music & Arts' headquarters, according to a company press release.
Gottlieb previously held executive positions at Sur La Table, Jockey International and Banana Republic and is "an avid advocate for music education and plays guitar," the company said. The retailer also said that his leadership of "a rapid phase of growth and many of the growth strategies he executed for Sur La Table" has implications for its expansion of Music & Arts. "[H]e led the Sur La Table cooking school program, a business with many parallels to the lessons programs of Guitar Center and Music & Arts," according to the release.
Moody's Investors Service cited Guitar Center as among weaker retail players facing debt maturities in 2020-21. The instrument retailer has some $600 million of debt and suffers "operational and execution issues" that led to Moody's negative outlook, according to a February report emailed to Retail Dive.
Guitar Center runs a few iconic locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, but it has morphed from a small, thriving business with a few California locations in the 70s to a nationwide chain of nearly 300 stores, many of them in struggling shopping centers. Last year, the retailer announced a new emphasis on e-commerce.
As Guitar Center struggles with the resulting operational issues, it could get a boost from its education-oriented Music & Arts unit. That business's stores cater to teachers and parents of school-age kids participating in band and other mostly school-based musical pursuits, so its clientele is fairly locked in and regularly refreshed. Music & Arts has more than 500 retail and affiliate locations, 140 educational representatives and teaches more than 1.5 million lessons each year, according to the release.
In a statement, Gottlieb called Music & Arts "so much more than a retail store."
"[A]s one of the largest music lesson providers, we offer tremendous value to our customers and students by giving them valuable skills they will use for the rest of their lives," he also said.