He gave up on small music stores that are struggling to buy independent inventory.
Dean Zelinsky, who has been creating electric guitars for rock stars that have played in bands that include Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and The Doobie Brothers since 1976, this summer launched his own direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, after he cut out all retail distribution in the United States. In less than a month of business, he’s already had three days of revenue surpassing his goals, he says.
“The more I do this, the more I realize the retailers were actually in my way—I had a lot of good retailers that sold for me over the years, but they’re few and far between,” Zelinsky says. “I have way more control over my destiny now.”
His move to direct selling was years in the making. Many of the independent music stores that used to sell his guitars have shifted away from carrying a dozen or two of his creations, he says, because they now spend that budget on buying many more guitars at once from larger brands.
Without the middle man between him and his U.S. customers (Zelinsky still sells through one major retailer in each foreign market), he says he’s able to sell his guitars for 30% to 40% less than they used to cost on the shelf. “We’re selling a guitar for $499 that my old company was selling for $800,” he says.
Additionally, shoppers who buy Zelinsky’s guitars online can have them custom built and shipped directly from his workbench to their homes, a service previously reserved only for rock stars, he says. That also eliminates the risk of damage and warping that comes from guitars hanging on a store wall, sometimes for years, and being test-driven by countless shoppers.
“It’s a win-win—the customer gets a better guitar at a better price, and we have our 30-day money back guarantee,” Zelinsky says. “That’s a bit of a leap in our industry, because iPhones are all the same but guitars each feel and sound a little different.”
To assist online shoppers in picking out guitars that they cannot hold and strum themselves, Zelinsky says he is working on a Skype showroom in which customers will be able to video chat with store associates while they show off the instruments and answer any questions.
DeanZelinsky.com charges a flat rate of $20 for U.S. shipping and $79 for worldwide shipping.