The axe falls on a Calgary guitar institution

After several years as one of Calgary’s major music retailers, Axe Music Inc. is set to close its popular Macleod Trail South location at the end of its lease on May 31, 2018.

Due to a struggling economy and competition with other music retailers, Axe has decided to depart Calgary and put a stronger focus on its online, and Edmonton, stores.

“There’s a bigger competition for music stores in Calgary than there is in Edmonton and I think that’s part of the reason we’re closing,” said Lindsay Cooper in an interview.

Cooper, 20, has been working for Axe as a part-time employee for the past three years and says that she’s seen the in-store customer traffic slow down significantly.

She believes this is largely due to the Calgary economy, as well as competition from stores such as Long & McQuade, St. John’s, Guitar Works and other online retailers.

“Sales definitely have been down the last little bit, plus our owner isn’t able to be here as much either,” Cooper said.

Axe Music’s general manager and partner, Brian Cymbaluk, has been diagnosed with cancer, which has limited his involvement in the business.

Nonetheless, Axe Music is still recognized as one of Calgary’s major music retailers and despite a decrease in in-store sales, it still remains in good standing online.

“The online store is doing better and better every year as our locations do worse,” said Anthony Biafore.

Biafore, 35, has been working at Axe for five years and says that it’s not just his store struggling with sales, but all music retailers Alberta wide.

He argues that online sales are why customers aren’t coming in to stores any more. Most customers will just research exactly what they want before they even show up at the store.

“Everything is dealt online nowadays so I think it’s a good thing that we focus on being the biggest online retailer in Canada,” said Biafore.

While the bulk of Axe’s sales are in guitars, the past few years DJ and PA equipment has been in heavy demand as electronic music becomes more popular.

Axe’s top competitor, Long & McQuade, has seen a similar trend in sales.

“We need to stay smart and proactive with what our customers want,” said Long & McQuade employee Ranjit Ranawaya.

For now, it remains business as usual for Ranawaya and his store, but he believes that the shuttering of Axe’s Calgary location is generally a bad thing for the music industry.

“We need competitors in this business,” Ranawaya said.

While the closure means that many of Axe’s Calgary staff will now have to move on to other jobs, some of the employees will be making the move north, to work at their Edmonton location.

I think it’s a good thing we focus on being the biggest online retailer in Canada. – Anthony Biafore

In an effort to consolidate, Axe will be holding sales over the Christmas season, then shipping the leftover product back to its warehouse in Edmonton to be distributed online.

“This definitely isn’t the end of music for Calgary — music will never die — but it is definitely the end of an era for Calgary music retailers,” said Biafore.

For more information on Axe Music products and it’s store closure, visit their website at

About Kyle Woolman 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Kyle Woolman worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.