A couple of weeks back I went to the Swee Lee sale at Sims Drive. They were doing one of their usual 50% off sales where the price, if not marked as ‘nett’ is 50% of whatever the list price showing on the ticket is for the day. Well, this all sounds hunky dory and you *can* get the odd bargain (like my Warwick bass last time) but by and large, the list prices are much, much higher than you could find than say, in the United States.
Here’s an example – a Fender MIM Deluxe Player’s Strat was listing in the store for about SGD $2500 (1 USD = 1.25 SGD), so after the discount would be $1250 SGD. A quick check on Sweetwater shows their price of $599 USD which equates to about $750 SGD – nearly half of the *sale* price of Swee Lee. I went back a subsequent non-sale day and asked how much discount they would give and they said 20% off. Therefore it would usually be selling for SGD $2000!!! – almost three times the US online year-round price. Ok – granted, I would have to pay shipping – let’s say $200 SGD and a bit of GST so this would take my price to about $950 SGD if I ordered from the US, plus I wouldn’t be able to try the actual guitar – fair enough, but that’s a big difference amigos…
Anyhoo, I was down at Bras Basah last week and wandered into Swee Lee’s main town showroom and lo – there was a Deluxe Player’s Strat (transparent blue – the one I like) front and center on the main display and it had a price ticket that said ‘$950 nett.’. I picked it up and gave it a quick strum and about 10 seconds later, a helpful lady came up to me and volunteered the information that this was a guitar that had just arrived, that Swee Lee was under new management and that they had changed their pricing strategy as they no longer felt it fair that people had to pay so much more than the prices they could find online. I think she must have seen me goggling in disbelief that the price ticket was showing something remotely fair and felt that she had to preempt my questions. I asked her what reference sites they used and she said ‘the big US ones’ which I assume are Musicians Friend, Sweetware, Music123 and so forth.
Still, their showroom price is $200 SGD more than the US online price, but I think I can live with that. After all, a showroom has operational costs and I can actually try the guitar, plus despite what anyone else says, I think their staff are always very helpful to me. Then there’s the fact that there’s no hassle shipping the thing over, wrestling with Vpost and not having the risk of having to return it at great expense if something is amiss amongst other things.
I liked what she said, but I can’t help but think that there is a backstory that the management are telling themselves that goes something like ‘we’re losing customers, people aren’t dumb and know how much they can get this stuff online for, and we only seem to get a revenue spike when we do a 50% off sale which is no way to have a run rate business, and even then the prices we can give are much higher and it’s basically unsustainable. We can no longer afford to be greedy (as there is a whole bunch of competition around us) and if we go this way with a strategy that isn’t screwing-the-customer-led, perhaps we could have a sustainable and predictable business all year round in which everybody’s happy.’
Well, if there is or there isn’t, $950 SGD is darn attractive price now for that Strat, and this could be the beginning of a new relationship between Swee Lee and the musicians of Singapore. I for one and am very happy and I’m sure I will be unloading a ton of cash in the place in the near future.
I want to add that over the past 9 years I think I’ve bought around 5 guitars from them plus a whole bunch of other stuff and looking back at some of those purchases I did feel “jeez – that was expensive compared to ..<insert other store/country etc.>" but then, you know what it’s like, when you’ve got the GAS, the money is burning a hole in your pocket, and they are there to take it from you – nobody’s forcing you to pay their old prices…