Where has all the strummer loving gone? Music-gear retailer Guitar Center (NASDAQ:GTRC) would like to know. Sales for the quarter that ended in September punched in just 12% higher, as profits fell to $0.38 a share after a $0.51 showing a year ago. (Check out the Fool by Numbers here.)

Thankfully, investors had already been tipped off about the unplugged performance four weeks ago, when Guitar Center warned of the period's weakness. The stock inched higher last night in after-hours trading, however, since the sloppy performance was actually at the high end of last month's watered-down range.

I've always had a soft spot for Guitar Center. Maybe it's the musician in me. Maybe it's that its superstore niche in something as specialized as music gear makes it immune to competition from the discount department store chains, such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT), that have made life difficult for specialty retailing in areas such as toys, DVDs, and, to a lesser extent, sporting goods.

I also like the trends here. The Internet has made starting a garage band more locally lucrative. The computer has made home recording more affordable. Even when it comes to DJs, way too many of them now show up at parties with their pre-loaded Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPods, but Guitar Center will still sell iPod mixers to the jockeys who want to fade in and out from one iPod to another.

As it heads into the gift-giving holiday season, Guitar Center is in pretty good shape. It expects comps, which improved by 3% in the current quarter, to rise 4% to 6% higher at its namesake stores for the potent period. It is still looking to earn between $1.14 and $1.20 a share for the period, and Wall Street is actually perched at the lower end of that range.

Accelerating same-store-sales growth? A market-beating quarter? Weep no more, Guitar Center. These are the power chords that investors love to keep hearing.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really did play in a band that eventually got signed to Columbia Records. His band sold a few records before he traded in his musical keyboard for a computer keyboard. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.