innovative thinking: talking shop

‘Give your customers an amazing sound experience’

With margins a long-standing challenge in the CE market, Josie Matthews visited some retailers who have made a point of going premium


rice can sometimes be a tricky subject, especially when it comes to the UK consumer electronics

industry’s products. And the Internet doesn’t help! Some retailers have focused on selling higher priced items; products where people are buying into an experience, and where price isn’t key. Two such quality brands, both sold by the

nationwide Big Red Sales team, are Sennheiser headphones and Swiss loudspeaker manufacturer Piega, a recent entrant to the UK market. Our first port of call is to world famous Graham’s HiFi in Islington, London. Graham’s is an audiophile’s Mecca. With

four demo rooms and a staff of 24 they are a destination store for scores of famous musicians as well as tourists from all over the world, such is their esteem. When a potential customer walks down Graham’s little courtyard deep in North London, they usually mean business. So why did a retailer already selling a huge range of quality loudspeakers need to stock any more brands? Salesperson Sophie Thurston gives the

answer. “As soon as we heard the Piega speakers we liked what we heard,” she says.

Sophie Thurston at Graham’s HiFi with Piega’s ‘wow factor’ tower speakers

“For us, their sound is unique amongst all the brands we sell because of the ribbon tweeter. It delivers a very different sound.” Coming from a company whose loudspeakers retail from £350 to £55,000, that is no mean endorsement. Sophie continues: “One of the things that sets us apart from the majority of our competitors is the experience we give our customers. We do not tell them what they want. Instead we sit them down and listen to what they want.” That advice applies equally to people wanting

to spend £350 or £55,000 for a set of loudspeakers. Sophie says: “Always listen to what the

customer is looking for. Show them what is available and let them experience the different sounds. It’s impossible to explain a sound. You have to feel it for yourself. “ Sophie also likes to throw in a surprise at the end.

Luke Brand of Audio Lounge, where Sennheiser reigns supreme

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“I put in a very special product at the end to add a bit of a wow factor,” says Sophie. “People love to see things they wouldn’t normally see.” Her latest ‘wow’ product is Piega’s 1.34m tall speakers. “Very few people get to see loudspeakers that size, let alone listen to them,” she explains. “It sends them away with a smile on their face.” Down another courtyard, this time in New Malden, Unilet – “the hidden hi-fi store” -

Selling a sound experience - Phil Wannell of Unilet says sales of Sennheiser headphones have substantially increased

has been experiencing great success with Sennheiser’s Orpheus headphone range which retail from £1,000 upwards. Sales consultant Phil Wannell says: “We love

to show customers really great equipment and Sennheiser offers such products. We like to demonstrate these against other brands and watch people’s reactions.” He says it is quite unusual for people to be able

to listen to so many headphones in one outlet, adding: “It’s remarkably difficult if you just listen to one pair, there is no basis for comparison.” He adds: “So many people buy headphones without ever listening to them, instead preferring to just take Best Buy recommendations from the consumer hi-fi press. They just don’t realise what they are missing.” As a result of its success with Sennheiser, Unilet has been able to grow its total headphone sales substantially. One last example of how little price means in this sector. Luke Brand, manager of the prestigious Audio Lounge in Wigmore Street – which is destined to be the London venue for the much-publicised £50,000 HE1 Sennheiser headphones - tells how he sells shedloads of Sennheiser’s IE 800 in-ear phones at £600 a pair without any trouble at all. He says: “One man came in recently to buy a pair saying he had left his on a plane and couldn’t be without them.”

February 2017

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