Q: I have amassed a modest collection of electric and acoustic guitars over the years, which has been difficult due to the fact that I am a left-handed player. Finding a left-handed axe that can be played before buying it is difficult. Most shops carry one, maybe two left-handed guitars, while having hundreds of right-handers in the same inventory. Given that 10-15 percent of the population is left-handed, I am baffled why stores don’t carry more left-handed models, let alone a couple high-end lefty models. Telling me I can order a lefty model is not reassuring, since the expectation is that I am going to buy it when it arrives, and it is always possible I won’t like it. After getting some insurance money for the loss of a Martin that was stolen on a camping trip, I picked up a Taylor 114ce.
It has such great sound and is so playable that I am literally wearing the top off where there isn’t a pickguard. I would like to get another high-end guitar, and am interested something like the 800 Series or Builder’s Edition. I have never seen any guitar of that quality in any music store.
Do you know why guitar stores are so disinclined to keep left-handed guitars in their inventory? I see high-end right-handed guitars stay in show rooms for what seems like an eternity, so I have trouble accepting that it is a function of sales. I thought about attending one of the Taylor Road Show events, but I expect it would be the same. Am I wrong? What gives in the neglect of 10-15 percent of the guitar market?
Steven C Burke
A: Steven, I feel your pain. I’m going to turn this question over to Zach Arntz, who’s worked at Taylor for more than 20 years in both customer service and sales. He’s spent a lot more time in stores than I have in recent years, and I think will give you a good perspective, both from the eyes of customers and our dealers. He also really likes helping people. And he’s good at it. Zach, over to you…
Steven, I understand how you feel. You’re right, most stores only stock a few left-handed models. Rarely are there lots of high-end models to choose from. Naturally, you might be reluctant to special-order a guitar sight unseen.
When it comes to stocking left-handed guitars, the conundrum for most dealers is, what to stock? While most stores will stock higher-end right-handed models, when it comes to left-handed models, they’re often concerned the guitars might sit in the store for a longer time. The reality is that, generally speaking, higher-end guitars don’t sell as fast as lower-priced ones, so from a store’s perspective, there is less financial risk for them to stock left-handed models at lower price points. Some stores I’ve worked with in the past have told me, “I try to stock left-handed models, but I always feel that no matter how many I stock, the customer always wants a model I don’t have.”
Southpaw Guitars in Houston, Texas, is a specialty store that only sells left-handed guitars. The store usually stocks anywhere from 65 to 75 unique Taylor left-handed models at all times. Their qualified staff can assist you in finding your next dream guitar.
There are also a number of online retailers that showcase a greater selection of higher-end left-handed models and offer the ability to pick from a selection of a given model. For example, instead of just carrying one 814ce Deluxe model, they may stock up to three, and you can compare the guitars on the same page. Our premier online dealers, such as Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, and American Musical Supply (among others), stock a wide selection of left-handed models. The next time a Taylor Road Show is scheduled to come to your area, reach out to the store in advance and have them ask their Taylor sales manager which left-handed models might be in stock and available to bring to the event.
Finally, if you’re ever in the San Diego area and want to take our factory tour, keep in mind that we display a healthy selection of left-handed models across various series, including higher-end models. If you plan to pay us a visit and want to test-drive a certain model, please reach out to Mark Vargas in our Visitor Center in advance (you can email email@example.com), and we’ll see what we can do to assist you.
I will say that, currently, our Builder’s Edition guitars with cutaways are not yet available in left-handed versions due to the amount of additional tooling required to make them. Non-cutaway versions like the Builder’s Edition 517e and 717e can be made in a left-handed version.