I think whichever way you cut it, retail is essentially about CHOICE - about your preferences really - what price level you want to shop at, and what is available to you at that price range. Of course the more you know about guitar gear, the wider the range you are likely to be interested in, so it fits that your preferred vendor has the largest product range available within your budgetary preferences.
The internet of course has given you access to far more than ever before - meaning you currently have a network of International retailers that you can access - and you need to weigh up unit pricing against delivery costs and customs charges. As my tastes have broadened, I have found myself increasingly acquiring pedals in particular from Reverb.com. Of course I would prefer to buy something locally (UK) - as I usually get a better prices and quicker delivery - yet not always. I have acquired several pedals from Germany which were more keenly priced than those available in the UK, and various more cost-effective ones from Canadian retailers in particular on Reverb.com - so it really pays to shop around.
Generally though I make my choices based on the following criteria
Below I list out the 10 Online vendors I use the most regularly (in alphabetical order); with Andertons, GAK, Joe’s Pedals and Reverb being my favourite 4, and Andertons the overall winner qv. Being London-based, my nearest bricks-and-mortar guitar retailers are the various stores on Denmark Street, Covent Garden, and GuitarGuitar on Delancey Street in Camden. None of those really are proper pedal specialists though, and the Denmark Street stores don’t tend to have the keenest pricing. I do venture out into town regularly though and will buy pedals from various stores - including GuitarGuitar Camden of course, and Regent Sounds, Wunjo and Rose Morris - yet none of those can really compete with my top 3 choices, and often have a poor record of general availability. There are all manner of retailers in the UK which are listed as main or official dealers for certain pedals - but they have little or even none of those in stock.
The reasons I put Andertons at the top include:
In fact the only thing I can fault Andertons for is the occasional funny search result and some occasional display-glitches on the wishlist. Would also be nice if wishlist items were automatically removed when purchased - like Amazon does it. Oh - and it would be a handy feature to be able to browse by ’recently arrived’ which is not currently available - otherwise Andertons in generally exemplary. Their many YouTube Channels and Andertons’ relationship with That Pedal Show probably helps things along too, but I generally can’t fault any of their dealings with me. I have had a number of email and phone conversations with Andertons Mail Order Department staff and have found all of them to be shining examples of courtesy, helpfulness and proficiency.
My Top 10 Online Gear Retailers
As stated previously the ones I tend to use the most are Andertons, Brighton’s - Guitar, Amp and Keyboard Centre (GAK), Joe’s Pedals in Exeter and Reverb.com (International) - the last mentioned mostly for smaller USA and Canadian pedal brands, but recently several from the continent too - including Portugal, Romania and France, and most recently Singapore even. The 3 big globally known / active stores are probably Andertons (UK), Sweetwater (USA), and Thomann (Germany) and I have directly shopped from the European ones while with Sweetwater somewhat inadvertently though Ebay - yet received great follow-up service there too.
There are other gear webstores as such that I also use on occasion, which include -
Generally I will look to Andertons, GAK and Joe’s Pedals first, then the other vendors in the UK, then Germany, and next - Reverb, Ebay and further afield as necessary. The driving principle is usually availability first, then pricing and delivery (speed of, customs etc.). No single vendor will ever cover all or even most of what is available - it’s all a matter of degrees and what you’re looking for. And while the more general mainstream brands have wide distribution and availability, some of the smaller brands may only have one or two UK dealers - who usually have little or no stock of the brand you are looking for even though they are registered and authorised dealers.
In terms of a buying experience, an established relationship is always beneficial, yet you must stay on your toes to keep up with the best available offers - some retailers will always order more of one pedal as a gamble, but that gamble does not always pay off - meaning that they will discount to get rid of excess / surplus stock. As with Amazon too - pricing can vary enormously based on demand - especially with import products where changing exchange rates can often result in a higher price for a re-stocked or updated version. You wait long enough though and prices will trend downwards - until a pedal becomes unexpectedly discontinued - at which point they appear at inflated prices on Ebay and Reverb.com.
A lot of the time this is all about timing - you get the timing wrong and the pedal you’re after becomes ’unobtanium’ - with a ridiculous pricetag when it pops up once a year or so, or else you buy too soon and pay full ticket price. Some pedals I snap up rather quickly, while others I keep an eye on - in expectation of a lower price later.
A case in point is the Zvex Fuzzolo pedal which I have seen as low as £94 in the last couple of years, but is generally available at around the £109-£115 mark currently. For me the £99 or below is the magic mark for mainstream pedals. Boutique pedals are usually around £199 new, and you rarely get them for less than £120 new - so you need to be aware of all the arbitrary price points and need to be ready to jump into action when your own target price is hit - you hesitate even a few minutes and you will be too late!
As a general guideline I do think it is important to set budgets and limits on a monthly basis - to stop you going overboard. As with everything in life the more time you invest in a thing, the more knowledgable you become about what is out there and the more you want - so beware - this can be a fun hobby, but a really expensive one too if you’re not too careful!
Remember that most vendors have ex-display / B-stock as well as used gear available and there may be bargains to be had there too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a favourite pedal of mine get unfavourable reviews from certain quarters - so there is definitely a lot of ’Marmite’ out there which can work to your advantage. There’s also a great many users out there that don’t know how to or can’t be bothered to tweak or tune pedals properly - so you can often find several different avenues to approach your pedal acquisitions and there is nothing wrong with a used pedal in decent condition.