Historically a build-to-order manufacturer, over the past few years G&L has introduced some no-option build to stock lines. One of their first attempts the Fullerton Standard line was maybe a bit too standard, and while the price was good the guitars lacked much curb appeal. Currently there exists two no-option USA series of the guitars, the CLF Research series and the Fullerton Deluxe. The CLF Research is its own animal, rebooting some the early 80’s aesthetics and offering some guitars — like the Espada — that are not available in any other format (Custom Shop excepted). The Fullerton Deluxe series are standard popular G&L models with a range of nice appointments and upgrades that would cost more if you followed the build to order route. To keep the cost in check they now come with a gig bag, and mercifully they dropped the gloss neck of the original FD series in favor of tinted satin. It’s not that the G&L gloss is sticky, but it’s a sticking point with many buyers.
Why Fullerton Deluxe? – Any manufacturer needs stable production to plan materials, product flow, labor, and in general keep things humming. While we love the fact that G&L will build to order, it’s less efficient and results in a bumpier product flow than making just a few standard models. Also, big box stores and large dealers don’t want to custom order each guitar. They want SKU’s (stock keeping units) they can have their purchasing department order based on what their ordering system is telling them. All Fullerton Deluxe guitars have a UPC code because modern purchasing systems recognize the UPC code as the model identifier. A build to order guitar has no UPC. Outlets like Sweetwater and Guitar Center sell almost exclusively Fullerton Deluxe and CLF Research because they are SKU guitars. They give G&L an steady flow of regular volume and they are easy to order and plan. These heavyweights also have the ability to commission their own specific models too, such as the ASAT Classic Custom that only Sweetwater offers (which has a UPC).
Why buy a Fullerton Deluxe? – If you like the finish and the features and you don’t mind a gig bag, why not? They are not lesser guitars, and if you want a G&L right now and you like what you see, our experience is that the quality of a FD is on par with a build to order. Also, places like Sweetwater and GC can offer financing that many smaller dealers can’t touch. So if you want a guitar and take 3 years to pay for it, a FD through a big box is an attractive option.
Are Fullerton Deluxe the same quality? – From what we have seen, yes. One could argue that if you make the same thing every day and not 15 different things every day your quality should improve. That would be boring, but it’s healthy for a factory. While we don’t carry much for FD guitars — why fight Sweetwater at their own game — our experience with them has been generally positive. And for certain guitars like the Skyhawk the only way they are available is as a FD or CLF Research.
Why build to order? – In short, you can get what you want in a reasonable amount of time. Or you want a left handed USA guitar. And if you want a Fallout, SB-2, Legacy HH, Classic S….it’s the only way you can get them in a USA model. Plus we like creating interesting guitars and so do our customers. Lastly, it gives the smaller shops the ability to differentiate themselves from the big box stores, and being different is the key to survival. Maybe we can’t commission our own specific model like Sweetwater, but there’s no such thing as a Fullerton Deluxe Fallout either (fingers crossed).
A potential doomsday scenario for smaller dealers is that as new models are released, they are launched only in the FD or CLF format. That puts the independent shops squarely in competition with with big boys. But G&L has been very good to us, while managing the likes of influential big box and internet retailers. That has not been the case for every manufacture that has decided to ride the big box tiger. Choice is good, and G&L offers both availability and the ability for players to create something that’s personal. Sometimes you can have it both ways.