Edinburgh-founded guitar retailer with 160 staff hands control to workforce

An Edinburgh-founded guitar and musical instrument retailer with 160 staff has made the switch to employee ownership.

The business restructure means that 60 per cent of all GuitarGuitar shares are now placed into an employee ownership trust (EOT) providing the team with the majority of the business and its profits.

The in-store and online retailer started off in Edinburgh in 2004 and has since expanded to six retail locations across the UK.

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Now headquartered on the outskirts of Glasgow, the business sells more than 50,000 guitars a year, from entry level designs to highly sought-after collector pieces from the likes of Fender and Gibson.

The in-store and online retailer started off in Edinburgh in 2004 and has since expanded to six retail locations across the UK. Now headquartered on the outskirts of Glasgow, the business sells more than 50,000 guitars a year.

Founders Kip McBay and Graham Bell decided to make the switch to employee ownership to allow them to plan for their respective exits from the company without threatening the legacy of the brand.

Bell said: “Our team are over the moon to find out that they now own a share of this incredible business. GuitarGuitar’s success is a result of the commitment and hard work of our staff and we have now decided to take the next step and give them their own piece of the company.

“We’ve spent the last 20 years building a brand that we are wholeheartedly passionate about. We wanted to ensure the business means something to future owners when our time comes to take a step back.

“Not only did we want to reward staff for their efforts at the company but we also wanted to ensure our customers will always be front and centre. Every experience a customer has at GuitarGuitar will now be with someone who is invested in and committed to delivering outstanding service to musicians.”

Bobby Simpson, operations manager, added: “This is a fantastic day for the team. What a brilliant start to the year knowing that Kip and Graham have full confidence in every staff member to continue and develop the GuitarGuitar legacy.”

The company turns over some £45 million annually and is understood to be one of the first musical instrument retailers in the UK to take the step into employee ownership.

Bosses called on the help of employee ownership experts to provide guidance on the transaction. EY advised on the deal, with Douglas Roberts of law firm Lindsays providing relevant legal advice.

Duncan Reoch of EY said: “It has been a fantastic experience working with Kip and Graham through such an important transitional step in the history of the business, and for them personally.”

Douglas Roberts of Lindsays said: “GuitarGuitar is a brilliant Scottish business success story. Graham and Kip wanted to reward their staff and safeguard the future of the business while protecting the ethos they have built.”

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates provided employee ownership support for the project and assisted communication with the new employee owners and other stakeholders.

She said: “We’re seeing an abundance of interest in the business structure. When business owners like Kip and Graham are keen to outline their own exit strategy, employee ownership quickly offers itself as a clear option for providing a positive path for both owners and staff.”

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