I can only imagine that dealers who offer poor service and unrealistic prices hate the internet. I have no sympathy for dealers who complain about the net, they weren't complaining when there was NO competition- its time to let all of there clients see why(or perhaps why not) they shop there, instead of whining and complaining perhaps they could rise to the occasion. It only seems logical that these online dealers are making a fair to high profit as well and they do seem to be thrieving, what does a local guy have to offer besides fair advice and high prices? Not only do the local shops near me sell at full retail, they are rude and ignorant, hmmmm let me see why my dealer lives across the country. Now that I think of it, its kind of scary that a dealer 3000 miles away can service his client better then some one who is 13 miles away! When all else fails the old saying goes- if you can't beat them, join 'em! The times they are a changin'
I liked Tireguy's answer. This could be a touchy subject.
In my experience, more dealers know less about this whole field than 85% of the members here at Audiogon. I will, and have, paid full retail if the dealer can provide the level of service and support required with the given product. In my experience, which is short by comparison but I have had enough with stupid people, it seems that the dealers do not have the knowledge level to justify the increase in price.
If the service isn't their, why pay the price. Find the cheapest price on the net and either work through the issues yourself or ask here on Audiogon.
If I work with a local dealer, i.e. demos ect, I will buy from them. The basic trade offs are buying blind from the net which can burn, or an increase in price for the touch and feel factor. With audio it is very risky buying site un heard.
The dealer need to quit complaining and change his/her business model to accept the current reality of life.
That said I have found some dealers here that I would love to deal with.
I went to a HiFi shop about an hour from where I live to listen to a pair of $11,500 Talon Peregrine X speakers. After waiting for at least a half hour to be helped by the only person in the store who knew anything about the speakers I was brought upstairs to the "good equipment" room. The workers unboxed a brand new pair of Chorus mono blocks and plugged them in. The speakers were about 12 feet apart with a pair of martin Logan speakers in between them. I sat in the sweetspot on a sofa about 12 inches too short for the speakers and listened to the salesman tell me how he designed or helped design virtually every piece of equipment on the market today. We also told me how he goes to CES and sets up every turntable in all the rooms. Later he explained to me how my pre-amp was no good because it is not a tube pre-amp.
To his credit he offered to let me take the speakers home and listen to them. I didn't do it because by this point I knew I would not be buying from him.
I did get to listen for a few minutes and the speakers sounded good, but what could I really tell? Between the bad setup and the new mono blocks I certainly wasn't getting an accurtate portrayal of what these speakers could do.
He quoted me a price of $8000 on the speakers that have been sitting on his showroom floor for over a year.
With service like this why would I want to go on the net to buy equipment!?!
They have nice stuff in theis store but I don't plan to buy anything. I got enough gas from this salesman to drive back home!
Manufacturers like to give dealers "territory". Problem is...I have a computer, a car and absolutely no respect for price fixing schemes of this nature. Without considering mail order sales, ceteris parabis, price is first, service is second and all other considerations are third. If you give me a price we are BOTH happy with and minimal, but adequate service I MUST give you consideration. Geography is not in the top two. Manufacturers and dealers CAN NOT really give territory. St. Louis, Nashville, Cincy, Lexington, Memphis, Columbus, Chicago and Indianapolis are all within a few hours drive from me. My Louisville dealers MUST consider competing in all those markets. It is a GLOBAL market in home electronics partly because of the added knowledge the Internet can bring to our economic decisions...therefore you (dealers) gotta try to compete with everyone. If you are a dealer and you are not moving enough product or the margin is insufficient to justify the demo unit, good service and demo space...drop the line! Fewer dealers doing what needs to be done is better than too many dealers doing too little AND going broke too.
I think that the shift of interest from 2 channel stereo to HT has killed off the small stereo stores that specialized in high end stuff and were not quick enuf to see HT coming and convert. I only started looking at the internet after i couldn't find local dealers - i'd still prefer local dealers but driving 100 miles or more isn't "local" to me. When you're buying high end stuff a GOOD dealer will always beat the internet especially if they have on site competent service men.
See the recently closed thread "HELP Electro...." for interesting perspectives.
The internet has done the following to hi-end audio:
1 - It has opened a used hi end market that was not possible/realized 10 years or so ago due to not having the internet to connect the masses across the world.
2 - It has hurt new sales at 'full retail prices' due to the fact that people can shop globally for new or nearly new pieces.
3 - It has created a network/forum for people to communicate and discuss hi end equipment. The this has helped small companies/manufacturers bring excellent products to market and prosper through good word of mouth over the net.
4 - It has created more avenues for hi end dealers to sell product. This touches upon your dealer's problem. Some dealers feel a bit shafted by the internet. Why do they feel shafted?
a. People will look at their store and even demo an item from them, and then they will buy that same item online.
b. They cannot beat many online prices due to the cost overhead they run. They have to mark up items 30% to 50% to make a profit. Many internet sellers can get by with a 10% to 20% markup.
c. People come into their stores and pick their brains. They give expert advice. And the people end up not buying anything.
I have worked part time as an audio salesmen before (at a large dealer). My best advice is the following:
1. Get creative and use the internet to your best advantage.
2. See more used gear and buy and sell it online.
3. Get into servicing elecronics. Get a good technician, pay him well, and charge $50-$75/hour for fixing electronics. The dealer I worked with was always backlogged with stuff to fix.
4, Get into HT and HT installation. Not everyone can install a great home theater system. If you are good at this, there is money to be made.
5. Settle for low margins on high dollar items. A dealer should be able to settle for a 10%-15% margin for $16k amps. I'm sorry, but look at the markup a car dealer has on a $16k car.... A car dealer loves %10. AND CARS DO NOT DEPRECIATE (SILLY LIKE) AS AUDIO GEAR DOES.
6. Be willing to sell your demo pieces to anyone who wants to buy them. And sell them at Demo prices (10-15% markup). Too many dealers I have met insist on keeping their demo pieces for close to a year before they sell them in a large sale. There may be some logic to this, but it is beyond me.
7. Do not carry a manufacturer who's Distributor does not support you. You as the dealer are the front line for the manufacturer. If you make a promise to a customer, the distributor should support you. If they do not, well drom him (or he should drop you).
8. Do not feel ashamed to carry Receivers. They are the bread and butter for many audio stores. And people have to start somewhere (I started 17 years ago with a Kenwood Receiver.... and look at the audio fiend I am now).
9. Train your salesmen. Audio salesmen I find fit into 1 of 2 categories. They are either good salesmen who do not know a lot about audio or they are audio geeks trying to be salesmen. One needs to be trained in audio, the other needs to be trained in sales. If I walk into n audio store, and the folks know less than I do about what they sell, I get disappointed and leave. I do this as a hobby, people that do this for a living should be pros/experts.
I agree with Tok2000's first 3 points but the 5th is wrong. There are some very fine dealerships in the Bay Area that are trying to do a signficant high end music business, not just ht. There is no way a store owner can pay salaries and overhead on 10-15% markup. The reason a car dealership gets away with 10-15% is that they sell large volumes - exactly the opposite of high end audio.
I appreciate the expertise and experience of good audio shops plus the need to audition before buying, and I will not waste a dealer's time. MSRP is the differential that allows them to continue doing high end.
I feel compeled here to speak on several points mentioned here, if for nothing, because I've worked in the high end A/v business for many years, and know first hand what the internet has done to change hi-end...
Yes, it's true, the internet has caused some major changes to occure in retail hi-end audio sales by-enlarge. But hi-end will NEVER DIE ON A RETAIL LEVEL!....GARANTEED! As long as the "smart" retailers of Hi-end focus on SERVICE...THE HI-END WILL SURVIVE IN MY OPPINION!..that, and if hi-end manufacturers continue to keep internet sales under control.
Indeed, a lot of the mass market mid-fi products have hurt Hi-end retailers quite a bit. But the ones that mostly deal in "exclussive", "non-internet" sold products, are still selling hi-end I think! Still, most of the retailers I've talked to say that "custom installation is keeping us a live!" And for now, I can certainly see people want to ride the "new and exciting wave of internet purchasing fun", at least for now. So, I think hi-end retailers have had to refocus..and I think that's VERY GOOD FOR HI-END IF YOU ASK ME!! Why?...because hi-end retailers should no be forced to focus more on something you'll never get by shopping "on-line", and that's SERVICE!!!!!
I really actually feel sorry for the masses that are duped into thinking they are saving money, and getting the best gear cheap, and getting great Hi-end sound!!!!...JOKE!!!!
I GARANTEE that everyone who simply reads magazine articles and reviews on products, and buys em on-line because it's cheaper, is ending up WITH LESS THAN STELLAR QUALITY AND END RESULTS!!!!....GARANTEED! Why I think the high end will never die at the retail level, is that YOU CANNOT REPLACE SERVICE!!!!..and there is really no service on-line!
I personally think this "net-thing" has lowered the overall quality that people are ending up with! You can't replace what a knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced hi-end salon has to offer in general! Some of us guy's have been pouring "blood, sweat, and tears" into finding out how to put together higher fidelity audio/visual experiences, and you can't replace that buy simply buying "potentially excellent gear somewhere" And I know that if you buy a pair of speakers from me at a retail shop vs. if you buy em on line and hook em up yourself at home. 999/1000 times buying em from me is going to yield you a FAR BETTER SONIC EXPERIENCE, because I can be there for you to give you the sevice and advice and experience that's going to get those sepakers sounding FANTASTIC for your system/set up!!!! I mean, I know FOR A FACT that I'm going to be able to help you set it all up and make the right chioces better than ANY AUDIO NEWBIE, AND 99.99% OF the experienced audio junkies!!!!
So, if I was a retailer, whould I sweat the internet any??...NOT A CHANCE!!! Because I'n going to be there for my customer, stand behind the products, offer WORLD CLASS SYSTEM SET UP, DESIGN(IF APPLICABLE), INSTALLATION, ADIVCE, CALIBRATION, and proper matching equipment and recommendations THAT I KNOW WORK!!!!...or I'll change it out for you!!!...THAT'S MY THINKING!
So, I guess someone could get all worked up over buying their Mark Levinson amp on Ebay or whatever. But I think, if I was a retailer still, I could care less if my customer decided to do the "net-thing"! Because I know, in the end, he's LOOSING OUT BIG TIME!!! He may end up with a potentially great piece of gear for cheaper(maybe not the right gear, as reviews are no way to make decisions), but he won't be getting a WORLD CLASS audio experience likely...from my experience that is!
So, for me, I think SERVICE HAS TO BE WHERE IT'S AT! The gear is only SECONDARY. I mean the gear is only half the equasion. And usually people who rely on buying things cheap over the net, end up short! NOt to mention the other draw backs of "internet buying"! (too many "uncertains")
So, In short, I think the reason internet sales havn't "BOOMED" QUITE LIKE THEY WERE EXPECTED TO, IS THAT PEOPLE STILL NEED SERVICE! ...and the net can't provide it!
Audiogon thrives because USED HIGH END GEAR HAS GOOD RESALE VALUE and the internet provides a community of customers clamoring to get in the door so they can compete to buy.
Audiogon has cut deeply into price-fixing practices. Thank God.
Flex, I realize that most high end stores can not live with a 10%-15% markeup on most of their items.... HOWEVER, there is a big difference between marking up a $3k item 40% and marking up a $30k item 40%. That difference is 10 fold.
My point is that high ends stores whould be a bit more flexible on price on very high ticket items they sell. It would only help move equipment. Requiring a 30-40% markup on a $30k piece of gear is a bit insane when a 10-15% markeup would seal many more sales.
The internet has increased the circulation of equipment to the point where you don't have to go on an adventure to find used gear. Once the domain of dealers who would mark up used gear, the market has turned into the individual seller and buyer and the internet has circulated the information on what's available, effectively elbowing aside the dealers in this market. In addition, and most important IMO, is that the exchange of first-hand information from us grunts in the trenches really has shed a light on audio products that you would never get from a dealer - instead you would have to rely mostly on audio publications, which themselves are problematic (another topic altogether).
Not only that, but new entrants into high end audio, such as Supratek and Teres, have taken advantage of the word-of-mouth power of the internet to suucessfully sell their products at a lower cost by bypassing the dealer network. So, yes, it may be hurting the High End dealerships - but how many of us are willing to forego information or pay more than we have to?
This is a touchy subject, and as a manufacturer very important one to our company. I think the internet and sites like audiogon have increased high end audio. It increases awareness and education in high end audio--both very good for the industry as a whole. It is clear it has changed business and allowed users to find "bargains" be it new or used. If I can stereotype dealers there are really three types (of course one dealer may employ multiple types within their business strategy).
One is the mail order/ internet company that strongly pursues these types of sales. The service is from afar so it not as time consuming as going to someone's house and setting up a system. It also doesn't have the overhead of a first rate showroom. Thus this is less expensive and as a result they can pass the savings on to the customer.
Then there are the traditional brick and morter shops that have high end gear on display, expect people to listen and then buy. Many of these shops have really suffered from the internet. I think largely due to the fact that someone will go to their showroom, listen, decide what they like and then try to cut a better deal through the internet. To me this is really unethical to take a salesperson's time and basically "use" the facility as a testing ground with no intentions of buying from a place that has to sell at margins to support their sales force and building. This has been discussed in previous threads, so I won't beat a dead horse.
The third is what I call the "CEDIA" dealer. These dealers may or may not have a showroom. They are generally small but offer customer and installation services that can make a complex HT and music around the house easy enough for the whole family to use. These may or may not be high end dealers, but more and more often they are. As an example, Madrigal, has made the statement CEDIA is our show--it's no longer CES. That's a pretty strong statement from a high end manufacturer that has hundreds of brick and morter outlets and certainly let's you know what they think the longevity of the traditional brick and morter is.
I believe the traditional brick and morter has to diversify into one of the other two segments in order to remain profitable and stay in business. They either need to set themselves apart with customer service that is exceptional in their area or they need to get into the internet/mail order business. (It's even possible to do both--but I think that's a difficult business model).
Specific to our company is a variety of services and components sold through a dealer network. All of these require the presence of the dealer in the customer's home to either calibrate the device or take acoustical and physical measurements of the customer's listening room. Therefore an internet/mail order type dealer does us little or no good. They do not provide value to us, nor to our customers. We do have a variety of dealers that are the CEDIA type and the brick and morter. A few of our dealers do pursue internet sales, but not with our products and services because it's impossible for them to meet the requirements of installation and acoustical measurement.
I'm sidestepping the question, but just want to say that I have *never* had an all-around completely satisfactory experience in any shop. Some have been tolerable-to-okay, but none excellent. To one degree or another, all assistance I have ever received from even the most otherwise-pleasant shop salespeople and owners has suffered from a combination of ignorance, arrogance, and a placing of higher priority on *telling* the customer whatever their agenda might be, rather than *listening* to what the customer says first. Even with the least offending of them, I have always had to consciously maneuver around their shortcomings as salespeople in these areas in order to get what I want out of the encounter.
Tok20000,I disagree with your logic.For most of those who pay 30k for a piece there is no big difference whether to pay 20k or 30k;in fact,sometimes 30k is even better.Business people know it and make more money.I salute them, but these things do force me to think about the money flow in our society.
Taters, I think your dealer meant to say the internet has killed *HIS* high end sales. The internet has allowed for a more democratic high end, where consumers have choices beyond the retailers carried lines. The internet has helped chip away at the collusion that promoted price fixing. If more dealers actually provided the service they purport to, they would have little to worry about. Brick and mortar retailers should have an advantage. One can simply walk into a shop (preferably with an appointment) and hear quite a few carefully set up systems in a realively short period of time to determine their preferences and make their individual value judgements. To rotate online merchandise til one finds an appropriate "system" could be exhaustive and indirectly expensive. Of course the dealer needs to understand that his listening room is not the customers and be willing to make adjustments on the customers behalf as needed. Customers of course have to respect the inherent cost of this service and support the dealers. If at any point one realizes that one is definitley not going to do the business at hand with a dealer, that individual should have the courtsey to excuse themselves. Customers who waste the time of dealers only to purchase elsewhere are just wrong.
foreverhifi2000, I admire the dedication and passion you obviously bring to your profession. But not everyone in hi-end retail offers the same intensity as you do when it comes to customer service. I've been into audio, albeit as a consumer only, for 28 years and my experience, with most retailers, was almost enough to chase me into another hobby. Please, don't get me wrong, I've come across some very nice and helpful people in retail. But for the most part there has been condescension, pomposity, disregard and much to much ego for one to have to put up with. That is why I include finding Audiogon in my nightly prayers. In just the last 2.5 years, I've learned more and met some of the nicest people, both grunts and sales people, then I had ever before. AND I have been able to put together a system that I would have never imagined before. You do have a point, if the retailer offers everything that you mention, there should be no threat and thus no worries. I feel that the internet and used sales are only effecting the retailers that do not offer the same things that you so strongly point out as being THE most important things they can offer the consumer, an excellent buying experience and great customer service.......John
In the end you get what you pay for. Then internet offers the consumer lower prices, but it also offers substantially less service. Ultimately, I think those who rely soley upon on-line retailers will have a much harder time getting high quality sound than those who have access to a quality bricks & mortar retailer. As evidence I point to any number of Audiogon forum posts where people wonder why there systems composed of quality components doesn't sound very good. Without the possibility of auditioning equipment what is the real chance of proper system matching? Another benefit of using a B&M retailer is that you get the chance to listen to well matched systems in well designed rooms. For myself this exposed me to the limits of what is possible in reproduced sound. In the long run the internet will help the audiophile market because of its greater exchange of information and the fact that it will spur B&M retailers towards offering better levels of service. At the same time it will not be without costs. Many retailers will not survive, manufacturers will alter their warranty policies and consumers will have to rely increasingly more upon anecdotal stories and on-line "buzz" for advice.
I would offer one comment in defense of most dealers on the subject of arrogance, lack of great courtesy, and all that. Consider that many people contributing to A'gon leave after a certain number of years and repetitions of the same topic threads. Now consider that, professionally, you have to hear those same elementary questions 15 times a day every day. Do you think your patience and courtesy will not undergo at least some level of modification? Also, suppose you are pissed about the last guy who just wasted hours of your time without buying, and somebody new shows up 5 minutes later. Can you wash it all away and pretend the day just started?
I'm not a people-type, but I sympathize with dealers who are expected to be.
Flex, as a salesperson, I can tell you that this is a fundamental element of the job, and if you get tired of it, you need to leave the business, or else you will starve. I'm actually not a 'people-type' either, but that has no bearing on how I interact with customers. Doing the job professionally means helping people - anything less, and you're not doing your job. Any salesperson who takes the residue of one sales encounter into the next - or yesterday's questions, or last year's commissions - is unprofessional and will not ultimately succeed. Retail selling is not a particularly demanding job, but it does require some measure of mental fortitude and perspective to be exercised if you don't want to lose money. But at the end of the day, helping people well must be its own reward, and the commissions will take care of themselves. Salespeople who place blame for their failures instead of learning from them are constantly leaving any sales business, and since, as in baseball, you are destined to fail a large proportion of the time, the more quickly you understand this as a salesperson the better a chance you have of surviving. If the high end retail business is to survive, it needs to learn from its failures instead of blaming the internet.
Flex, that's the job, that's how they earn their money.
I don't think the internet is killing high end. High end is killing itself.
The internet (thru sites like A'gon) has allowed people to get a taste of high end without having to spend $$$$ at the local store. Once bitten by the "bug", these people will frequent the locals and, all things being equal, would prefer to develop a relationship and purchase from someone nearby.
If high end manufacturers and dealers had any brains, they'd set up a touring system, visit local high schools and colleges and begin introducing younger people to the joy of high quality music reproduction. These are the people that will soon be needed to continue our hobby but, no one seems interested in educating them. Imagine a high school auditorium with Krells, Wilsons and a really good TT playing Eminem, being compared to the same CD on a $400 Best Buy system. Do you think the students would hear the difference? The answer is yes.
Just my 2 cents.
Yeah. I can see that each individuals own experience with retailers is going to obviously help dicate where people ultimately put their money. If your local shop people "aren't any help", I can see the desire to buy that much easier on line!
You know in rethinking the original statement. I think things may very well be changing for hi-end manufacturers. MOre and more hi-end shops are definitely going to where the money is, and that's CUSTOM INSTALLATION! Where they used to make substantially more money selling "gear" and "pieces", they are now selling labor, service, and mid-fi gear, inwalls, and volume controls and home automation stuff! I can say I know of several respected hi-end salons in my area, that used to be the "go-to-places" for hi-end equip. Now those companies are concentrating on selling "installation jobs" and custom design work...with the equipment generally going to more mid-fi level gear(with exceptins of course). Where these stores used to deal in higher line more "tweeky" essoterica, they now down scaled the ambition level of their audio...while video keeps in proving however.
Still, yes, things are DEFINITELY CHANGING! I guess you either adapt and/or change with it, or you get left behind.
In the case of the hi-end, I think doing the "multi-channel" HT/music combi-gear thing, and redirrecting their focus has become a necessity if they want anything more than a basic living from what they produce it seems
Emh, I'm trying to concentrate on imagining a high school auditorium hosting a high end set-up playing Eminem, but each time I get it fixed in my mind for an instant, something makes me wince in pain and I lose the thought, whereupon I immediately feel much better... ;^)
Zaikesman- I understand. I couldn't come up with anything else high schoolers might be familiar with. Personally, I'd prefer The Clash, some good reggae, or Vivaldi. Still, I think the high end community is dropping the ball.......
Emh - It's a nice thought, but surely you realize that the sound would be half of the problem.
I think that while I agree with what Zaikesman has said in this thread(and where he has chimed in on this topic in other threads), the comment about Eminem tells the story of why high end audio stores are, always were, and until something changes, always will be a niche market.
I am presuming that Zaikesman's comments here were more fun than feeling, so I am using these statements as representing the typical bricks and mortar businessman we all know, not Zaikesman.
Why is it such a crime for a teenager to listen to whatever the hell he/she likes through a high end audio system?
This way more than pervasive attitude kills more high end audio business than probably anything else. The elitist belief that a person is actually "priveledged" to be able to audition audio componentry, and therefore must meet certain requirements of the dealer really is not lost upon most customers.
Music lovers are more abundant than we believe. Many of which have no problem paying a significant sum of money towards building a system where they can listen to their music, no matter what music it may be.
A few years back a friend of mine asked me to take him to a store where I purchased an amplifier. The salesperson's arrogant demeanor and conditions for listening ended up with the high end losing a lifelong customer. The most damning comment was that "You won't be able to play that Queensryche or whatever it is through this system. You may listen to this..."
The number of people who would react to this garbage with a "take your system and ..." is obviously pretty high. My friend now has spent a sizable amount of money on pro audio equipment and has never looked back. He is a pro audio fanatic in the same way we are high end audio lunatics. Again, high end audio has lost him FOREVER. His passion for music and gear is the same as ours. But, his money will be going in a different direction.
High end audio veers towards classical music and jazz, whereas pro audio tends toward rock and pop. I don't need to go into how classical/jazz have fared over the past generation. If the high end doesn't know which way the wind blows, it will parallel the music it strives to feature.
My point is that I think that in addition to lower prices, many have turned to internet sales as a way of not supporting local audio retailers who have offended them in some way. Personally, a local friend here on Audiogon has discussed at length with me a local store. The owner's arrogance and elitist nature is legendary across the country. He detests the man, while I allow that his selection is a redeeming point. My friend's point is that now in this day and age, people don't need to cowtow to this ogre, they can find anything he sells from someone better somewhere else. And, most probably at a lower price.
Seems like an obvious thing to me.
My overall point is that until these dealers, who for far too many years conducted themselves in a manner that would be suicide for most, look themselves in the mirror and make a change, the closing down of their businesses that has been called for for all too many years will continue. In my opinion, most of these salemen are too far gone to turn back now.
And so, the bleeding will go on...
Yes Trelja, you are correct that I was basically jes' funnin', even though my second comment about the sonics of Emh's proposal was directed toward the idea of setting up in an auditorium, not the music in question. Nothing would sound good enough played in that way to serve as a useful demonstration. I personally detest elitism in the arenas of system auditioning or dealer approval or same; although I wholeheartedly admit to being a zealous elitist when it comes to matters of taste in pop/rock music generally, people need to choose gear using the music they like to listen to. Of course, there is a large kernel of truth to the attitude that certain music is better than other music for system auditioning, at least as far as particular performance parameters go. This cuts all ways - loud rock can in some areas illuminate system performance better than classical, for instance. But not joking around, I actually would be against Emh's idea simply because I don't believe schools are an appropriate place to conduct marketing of businesses and products, and that we need less of this in our schools, not more. That said, as I think you already know I am in full agreement with you on your overall assessment of the way the high end markets, or fails to market, itself at the retail level.
I agree with Zaikesman re: marketing in schools. Besides, lets be realistic, we find $1000 a challanging price point for a total system. Don't you think 14 to 18 year old eyes would just glaze over, when they heard what we actually spend on our systems? While art is priceless, you can't put a price on beauty, and the world might be better off with this appreciation, etc. Quite frankly, considering the state of the world, I might be ashamed.
Let me throw a random item out here: two of the high end stores in my general area not only don't feature any window displays or signage about what it is they carry (other than the store name), they have actively covered over their windows so that there is no way to see into the store except through the door. Not only does this waste an opportunity to attract or pique the interest of passersby (both on foot and in cars), but for those locals who aren't audiophiles who do get an inkling of what the shop sells, it creates an indelibly forbidding (not to mention just plain ugly) image that fairly screams to the commumity, "We don't want you, we don't care about you, we're not a part of you, don't bother us". What other retail business not located in an industrial park can you think of that would present a blank face to the world? At least Masonic halls have the good sense not to actually call attention to their shuttered secretiveness by locating in public shopping strips. Way to put the message in the world. If I owned a high end store in a trafficed area, I'd want total innocents wandering in to gawk every single day - I'd ensure that music playing could be heard outside the storefront, and change my window display often. What the hell do these dealers think they're hiding, and why? (Well, in one of the cases, they could be hiding the annoyingly blase - if they don't totally ignore you, that is - and arrogant 'service' awaiting within...)
I'm late to this thread, but FWIW, I can say definitively and personally - if it was not for the internet in general and Audiogon in general, I would never have gotten into high-end, and would most definitely have spent my money on musical instruments (keyboards) and pro audio recording gear instead.
I experienced far too many barriers to entry in dealing with retail hi-end here in the SF Bay Area, and can sympathize and echo Zaikesman's earlier comment, "I have *never* had an all-around completely satisfactory experience in any shop. Some have been tolerable-to-okay, but none excellent."
Well certainly the internet will hurt anyone's business if it is dependent on consumer ignorance, since the web is such a good medium for information - not just passively, but interactively too (that's why audiogon is so great ;).
Frankly, I don't know what I would do if I were a highend retailer to make the best of it. imho opinion I MIGHT go with Rimbaud: il faut etre le plus moderne possible (you must be as modern as possible). In short: Leverage the new -- infant -- medium of the web as much as you can - try to turn the disadvantages of the web to your advantage. For ex.:
1. Have a highly interoperable, well-designed website w/ good web copy (no typo's, high quality compressed pics, fast-loading, search-machine optimized text, imho no frames [I want to set a bookmark on my apple's eye, right?]).
2. Put teasers on high-volume virtual markets (ebay etc), but also specialist/niche used markets (audiogon of course and others) to draw attention to your existence.
3. Help the consumer (provide quality information/advice) to help you ($$pend to buy your stuff). Small example: post (links to) favourable reviews/interviews/etc. of your wares, if these are offline (esp. often for vintage high end), get permission to put a reprint on your site.
4. A clichee goes: act local, think global. It's not entirely wrong - wrt the latter, there are many europeans, asians etc. w/ deep pockets who wd love to spend their money on highend audio. But what about power supply issues, customs, shipping? Insofar possible, address these issues clearly, offer to ship overseas w/ the correct PSUs, etc., make S&H rates fair and transparent, etc.
5. Educate your clients, help them get involved in, develop a taste for your stuff - you can't lust after that of which you are completely ignorant (for instance don't just assume that everyone knows what all those acronyms mean).
6. Resolve to stick it out for the long-term and keep on your toes, keeping abreast of changes in fashion, tech, etc., but don't follow these slavishly. Develop your niche, take pride in what you sell and show backbone (everyone respects that).
Sheesh, anyone who just took some of these things for starters and got them right must really know what they're doing, and genuinely care. That's where SOME (maybe enough, perhaps lots) of the money wd go.
OTOH, one might just assume that a retailer ignoring all these kinds of things, either doesn't really care too much, or just isn't savvy.
Having great products helps of course. But it would be foolhardy to believe that that is either a guarantee of success or even a safe hedge on getting "killed" by the internet.
I'm aware I cd be way off base. It depends on what you mean by "highend". If it's out-of-sight highend, maybe the best strategy is to just ignore the web, except for posting minimal contact info. No one who has serious money to spend wants others to have the same thing. Here, the real currency may be just word-of-mouth. just my 2 cents worth.
Geeesh....this topic again, and the same valid points from several viewpoints.
I feel obligated to buy the equipment I want and can afford. If I can find it cheaper online, then that's the way I go.
However, I do have an audio dealer from whom I buy equipment and who accepts trade-ins. Whenever I go to his store, even if I was there primarily to browse and audition, I ALWAYS make it a point to buy something, even if it's a couple of CDs, stylus cleaner, cones, or even something I don't really need just as a "thank you" for his time and electricity.
It seems real clear that the market is changing with the advent of home theater and all the associated stuff that goes with it. I just bought a new piece of audio gear (FM tuner) from my local high-end dealer. When I ordered this piece, I was shocked to see that out of seven listening rooms in the store, four were dedicated to home theater/plasma TV's. The main entrance room was also chock full of video stuff. They are evening selling home theater furniture (leather sofas and loveseats) along with light diming switches to control room lighting. Gone is the wall of high-end accesories (cables, recording cleaning items, etc., etc.). Gone are the big two channel setups that folks like us depend upon for learning about and auditioning new equipment. How is one supposed to audition new gear and make intelligent purchasing decisions when the majority of items offered for sale relate to video and watching movies? You can't audition audio equipemnt on the internet.
You can't blame dealers for going this route - they are in business to make money. The market is changing and they need to keep abreast of it to stay alive. However, where does that leave those of us who still value two channel? It makes one wonder how long some of the top high-end manufacturers can stay in business.
No doubt. Last week I was speaking with a prominent LA area dealer/storeowner by phone about a well-known and -regarded 2-channel topline preamp from a leading manufacturer, and he regretted to say that in in 5 years of carrying this model, he's sold maybe 6 units so far. In contrast, an even more expensive pre/processor from the same company, that's only been in existence maybe half as long, he reckons he's sold over 40 of. You do the math...
No, the high end is in the process of killing the high
end. The internet is not the problem.