Guitar Center, the largest chain of music equipment stores in the U.S., is reportedly facing “imminent bankruptcy." Digital Music News said that financial service firm Standard & Poor’s recently downgraded the business to CCC– status, indicating that a default event is expected in the near future.

With 269 stores across the nation, Guitar Center has a history stretching back to 1959, when it began as Organ Center then The Vox Center before a final name change in the ‘70s. Despite dismissing 180 employees in 2015, it’s carrying a debt of over $1 billion and narrowly avoided defaulting on repayments this month, which led to the downgrade. Another financial service company, Moody’s, warned investors: “The rating outlook remains negative.”

The crisis follows similar problems at Gibson Brands, Inc, the manufacturer of Gibson guitars. Earlier this year it emerged that urgent reconstruction was required to avoid its collapse. Last month it was reported that $560 million was needed to cover debt repayments by the summer, following a round of staff layoffs, and investors were pressuring CEO Henry Juszkiewicz to step aside in favor of a new management structure.

In an earlier interview, Juszkiewicz had argued that guitar businesses had struggled to recover from the 2008 financial crash, and said he’d been trying to persuade guitar stores to modernize their offerings. “I’ve been arguing with retailers for a long time that you have to be a place where [customers] can sit and take in the store, and be a destination that is friendly. If you walk into most music stores, there's nowhere to sit. Give me a break! Most stores aren't comfortable places. … [I]t’s all about making the customer feel welcome, and helping them out by being knowledgeable. That's what the industry needs, because it doesn't have it. We have to get people involved in music, and offer them a helping hand.”

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