AUDIOPHILE RETAILING: Why spend more time and money getting something better?

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A high-end retailer writes: I know the answer, but that’s not the point. What I think, feel, perceive and believe re audiophile issues is, realistically, irrelevant to my customers. Yes of course they want my know how, the brands I represent, encouragement, enlightenment and more … but they base their buying decisions on their emotions and not mine. That’s the way it should be; I'm content with that.

So what’s the point of this article? Read on please and perhaps I can enlighten you? Thanks.

Alan Sircom, a writer who I greatly admire, suggests that the problem with getting newcomers into the high-end is they already find their means of reproducing music “good enough” – so why spend more time and money getting something better? There’s some truth to what he writes.

I hold contrasting perceptions. One is that it’s in our nature as humans to want more: to tolerate good enough only for as long as we are unaware we can do better. The other as I've heard so often from colleagues and friends looking into my retail world is that, for them, good enough is good enough. For today though I'll follow the first and more realistic path. Let’s see where it takes us.

Once we realise others have moved from good enough to better, a fixed percentage of us want what’s better. It’s always been that way and always will be that way. Admittedly given the entire population it started as a small percentage and, in the face of the MP3 onslaught that percentage is declining – but there’s still hope, maybe.

So the challenge remains the same: how do we let people know there’s something better and what happens when they go looking?

Some have suggested that our industry hire a PR agency to spread the word there’s something better out there. Here’s what I'm told happened in the USA re this suggestion.

The agency started placing news stories and articles about the subject – perhaps even ads – something clever like “If your music at home is “good enough” then please don’t read any further.” The expectation was that a certain percentage of curious people would take the call to action and read further, do a little investigating. Had the PR company anticipated what the interested person would find?

My guess is that In some cases they found a friendly dealer who would hold them by the hand and get them into a nice affordable high-end system. If it happened even once then I’d be amazed.

Yes, if enough money is thrown at the issue then getting people to know there’s something better than good enough is easy, well easy-ish.

The second part of the equation, what happens when they go looking, is a lot more difficult.

Do I have the answer, an answer – any answer? The truth is both yes and no. For my deliberately small dealership my customers buy from me either because they trust my recommendations, accept my eccentricity and enjoy the experience or … I'm the only one that has the item they want and/or at the price they are prepared to pay. There are no illusions about this in my business.

So am I the appropriate template for others. No, indeed I'm not. It works for me and for my customers but truth be told, more people ignore my offerings than accept them. In short, different retailers for different buyer expectations.

The litmus test is … have I ever answered my opening question; the subject of this article – Why spend more time and money getting something better? For a non customer, friend, acquaintance, a person at a non-audiophile social gathering? No, I haven’t.

Have I given up on this to date fruitless evangelical mission? Not yet – but doing so is just around the corner.

Thank you for your attention

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