What's Happening to Gibson Guitars in Australia?


“What’s happened to Gibson… & will we see them in Australia again soon?”

The short answer is yes… but it’s complicated!

It would be an understatement to say that the past few years have been pretty rocky for Gibson…  globally but even more so in Australia.   Fortunately, that’s starting to change.  

Despite rumours & news reports that Gibson are “going broke” or are bankrupt, they have not stopped producing guitars. They’re currently producing and shipping new guitars.  A lot of them.  In fact last year they sold more than 170,000 guitars in more than 80 countries all over the globe … except it would seem, in Australia.  

That Gibson USA are in trouble financially is no secret & got so bad a few months ago that they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  In the USA however, that is a little more like going into voluntary Administration in Australia … so the “fat lady” hasn’t sung quite yet! 

It is widely accepted that the reason for their trouble is that the owners of Gibson got distracted by deciding that Gibson was more than a guitar maker & was a “lifestyle” brand, so they diversified into the murky waters of consumer electronics, buying a number of companies including Onkyo, TEAC & Phillips Home Entertainment systems.  Yep, Gibson was now selling headphones, speakers & audio accessories.  Incredibly, as recently as January this year, this meant that Gibson guitars decided not to display at the NAMM Show in LA - which is the world’s biggest “rock & roll” music trade show - and opted instead to exhibit at the Consumer Electronics Show … an odd place to show off their new guitar range I’m sure you’ll agree!

Complicating things here in Australia is the fact that their Australian Distributor, Australian Musical Imports (AMI) has also recently been placed into receivership, although for reasons completely unrelated to the strife that Gibson is experiencing.  AMI had been successfully distributing Gibson & Epiphone in Australia for almost 20 years & while stock was sometimes hard to get, they seemed to be doing a reasonably good job.

All that changed a few years ago when the Allans Billy Hydes chain of 8 stores on the East Coast went into liquidation & AMI decided to take them over.  The management of AMI were especially vocal in criticising the previous owners, stating their failure was due to the fact they “lacked music retail expertise” however despite AMI’s confidence, sadly their fate was to follow them down the same ugly path just a few years later. 

The challenges facing the AMI group proved it was far more than just a lack of experience that cause the chain to fail the first time as in a few short years, the Allans Billy Hydes stores starting closing up one by one & then finally collapsed completely last month.  Enter the receivers for a 2d time in a decade!

So what now?  In my opinion the future looks bright for Gibson as they will undoubtedly now focus on their core strength… making great guitars (who would have thought?!).  They have already shed a lot of the baggage they were carrying & offloaded all their consumer electronics brands & the new range of 2018 model guitars looks exciting, like a return to form. My feeling is that this shift of focus it is the best thing that has happened to guitarists wanting Gibson in the past 10 years.

In Australia, the collapse of the AMI group has meant that Gibson were free to look for a new distributor & we are excited that this means good, regular stocks of Gibson & Epiphone guitars have already started to flow & our first shipments have in fact just arrived this week.  It will take a while before they build up their stock, but it is happening, and we have already taken pre-orders for guitars.

We’re excited!

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