Is there a need for a storefront audio retailer?

The AV Room Service’s Norm Varney wrote, “…today’s world has fewer qualified audio storefronts…” to support audio enthusiasts, which forces many to rely on “self-elected experts” who have created a realm “full of false information.”

Many audiophiles still have qualified storefront access.
Too many mid-fidelity enthusiasts were left abandoned.

My brother’s mid-fidelity storefront is an exception.
Customers walk into his storefront, sometimes desperate, for help.
Too often, their big-box or online ‘expert’ could not answer an elementary question.
My brother, often at no cost, answers questions and solves their problems at his counter.

As choosing wine is best confirmed when tasted, audio gear is best confirmed when heard.
The wine-tasting room offers sips of wine.
My brother offers inspiring ‘sips’ of audio demonstrations.
His work suggests opportunity still lives in the storefront.
But is there?

I invite your input to address the question.
If enough readers respond, I will present replies in a future blog or post.
Use the following observations to kick off the discussion.

Downsized channels of distribution.

Storefronts, the big-box, distributors, and major brands are in an audio retreat.

The big box has reallocated high-fidelity floor and web page space to the vacuum cleaner, kitchen appliance, backyard grill, smart device, and bird feeder.

Major brands have retreated via consolidation.
For example, the former independent brands of B&W, Denon, Marantz, Polk, Definitive Technology, Classe, and Boston Acoustics are all owned by Masimo Corporation.

Former dealer-to-direct brands opened distribution to distributors, online sources,
and direct-to-consumer online sales.
Distributors are also consolidating and closing warehouse doors.
Sagging sales and store owner retirements have closed many traditional storefronts.

Fewer players have created an opportunity for a small storefront revival.
Where does the revival begin?

The Customer

It begins with the customer who
wants high-fidelity products and services?

I present three primary customer targets.

1. The elder music enthusiast returning to his musical roots and music library.
They seek advice that often includes integrating classic gear with new products.

2. The young music enthusiast.
They seek advice to support their interest in vinyl and music streaming.
They are prime for a journey into the world of high-fidelity audio.

3. The homeowner home theater and whole-house audio enthusiast who seeks qualifying advice, good product selection, a competitive price, and expert installation.

A business must sell more than it spends.
Yeah, this is an obvious statement.
But we must confirm the targeted customers’ market can support storefront sales.
Then, we must confirm the cost feasibility of doing business in the market.

The number of target customers in most regional markets can support a storefront.
It can if the storefront can also maintain feasible operating overhead.
But soaring storefront rents impede this goal.
This pivotal operating expense must be out-maneuvered.

Enthusiasts of a product or service will seek businesses in an unconventional destination location.
Our customer targets share an enthusiasm for high-fidelity audio.
The audio storefront is or can be a destination business.

Lower costs of a destination location may solve the high rent issue.
But it’s less visible than ‘main street’.
To minimize this promotional issue;
Explore locating near or sharing space with other destination businesses that feature music.
Small off-main-street music venues, craft beer breweries, and cafes meet this condition.
If found, prepare to support their events. Volunteer your audio expertise. Get out and shake hands.

Location is the top issue.
Let’s solve it before moving on to other storefront issues.

The Close

Who’s left on the retail mid-fi storefront street?
Where else can the mid-fidelity customers go?
Does music still thrive?
The answers to these questions support why storefront opportunity exists.
What say you?

That’s It

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