With more than 280 stores from coast to coast offering just about everything in the way of musical instruments, accessories, and audio gear, you’d think that the retail giant Guitar Center could easily rest on its laurels. “No way,” says GC director of category management for drums and percussion Glenn Noyes. “With retail outlets’ bottom lines affected by increased competition from online purchasing, innovation is the key. We at Guitar Center wanted to enhance the professional drummer’s personal shopping experience. Hence, the inauguration of a new concept in high-end buying, the Destination Drum Shop.” Initiated in July 2017 in ten major markets, Destination Drum Shops have now expanded to more than thirty cities. (See below.)

“DDS aims to reacquaint customers to the look, feel, and sound of the very best in drums and percussion,” Noyes continues, adding that the concept has attracted the participation of manufacturers nationwide, including DW, Gretsch, Ludwig, Mapex, Pearl, Roland, Sabian, Sonor, Tama, Yamaha, and Zildjian. “The advantage of an in-store purchase of a coveted instrument clearly personalizes the shopping experience for the individual, and DDS provides that.”

MD recently spoke with Noyes to learn more about Destination Drum Shops, and about his own career in drumming and retail.

Guitar Center’s Glenn Noyes, at the chain’s Sherman Oaks, California, location.

As far back as age ten I knew I had the passion for drumming. In fact, my whole family was musical. My father was a professional trumpet player and my mother a pianist. Luckily I chose drums and my brother picked guitar. In 1976, at age thirteen, I played my first show, in front of 5,000 people at a Fourth of July festival in San Diego.

As I was getting out of school, I began working as a full-time shoe salesman. The day came when my girlfriend suggested I try selling something I was passionate about—like drums! A Guitar Center had recently opened near my home. I applied and got the job on the spot.

I spent six years at GC and sixteen years at West L.A. Music. In 2007 I was asked to return to GC. Now I run the entire drum division of the company.

I think [the key to my ability to transition to retail] is the fact that I still play professionally, and I remain passionate about each GC store.

I’m in constant contact with our store associates, because without them there’s nothing. It’s important to have that balance and satisfaction of both understanding the retail side and continuing to play the instrument.

Over the past several years the drum industry has become a little bland. As far as pricing and selection, it’s been kind of a race to the bottom. When I went into any store, including GC stores, I really noticed a lack of selection. I remembered that back in the day you could walk into any drum shop and be mesmerized by top-of-the-line sets, colors, and shells. Drummers used to dream about owning one of those kits someday. Conceptually, Destination Drum Shop wants to bring that same experience back to the individual drummer. They can now go into a shop and see an incredible selection of all levels of drums. Moreover, they can feel, touch, and play them all in one location. Initially, it began with drumsets and snare drums, but it’s growing into other categories as well.

You can’t ignore the online experience, and we’ve created a DDS online as well. Many consumers don’t live near a major metropolitan area, so they rely on online for their purchasing purposes. We aim to provide superior service either way.

The drum “champion” who will serve as the point person at a DDS location is an experienced, long-term associate who’s gone through a great degree of training. In other words, the total answer person for anything and everything drums and accessories. Our vendors have been great at facilitating this, and in many cases the drum champion is visiting the manufacturers’ factories and seeing how the products are made. On the consumer side, there will be clinics, seminars, and in-store promotions. They will also be able to interact with factory reps and artists.

The assortment of gear will vary slightly in each location. A good example is the Manhattan store. You can’t fill that store with “big” or double bass kits. What sells there are smaller jazzette and bop kits that are portable. Conversely, some of the Texas stores will carry larger kits with 24″ bass drums, because that’s what sells down there. Each store will be stocked with a lot of exclusive products that can’t be found anywhere else. In addition, we can custom-design a limited run of high-end kits, and also give the customer a selective choice of five to ten drumsets fully loaded, thereby allowing them to make an educated decision.

From day one the response has been great from stores, drum companies, and consumers. When we launched the Destination Drum Shop initiative last July in the first ten markets, we were confident it would be well received by the drumming community. It didn’t take long for us to see that this was something that we needed to bring to more Guitar Center stores, so we expanded the shopping experience to an additional twenty-five locations in January. From California to the heart of the South, we’re reaching more passionate drummers than ever before, giving them an opportunity to touch, test, and play some of the best-quality gear. We’re excited to be one of the few retailers that offer drummers that option. I also definitely see Destination Drum Shops expanding into subcategories like cymbals, percussion, drumsticks, and drumheads in the future.

Destination Drum Shop Locations

Fountain Valley, CA /// Sherman Oaks, CA /// Rancho Cucamonga, CA /// Pasadena, CA /// Cerritos, CA /// Las Vegas, NV /// Phoenix, AZ /// Denver, CO /// Salt Lake City, UT /// Austin, TX /// Detroit, MI /// Edina, MN /// North Houston, TX /// Oklahoma City, OK /// New Orleans, LA /// Nashville, TN /// Boston, MA /// Orlando, FL /// Gwinnett, GA /// Brooklyn, NY /// Towson, MD /// Arlington, TX /// Austin, TX /// Atlanta, GA /// Chicago, IL /// Hallandale, FL /// Hollywood, CA /// Houston, TX /// La Mesa, CA /// San Antonio, TX /// San Jose, CA /// Manhattan, NY