By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York – The sixth product in Bang & Olufsen’s B&O Play series of lower-priced A/V products is a floorstanding, 480-watt docking speaker with Apple AirPlay, DLNA networking and built-in Wi-Fi at a suggested $2,699.
The disc-shaped three-way BeoPlay A9 speaker system stands several feet tall on three wooden legs but can also be wall-mounted with an optional bracket. It streams music wirelessly from Apple and Android mobile devices and PCs, but it also connects to Apple’s devices via Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port to charge them and stream their music content.
The Play series of products, priced lower than the luxury brand’s other products, is targeted to younger people — primarily renters who are in their early 30s and whose primary music sources are digital — with cash-and-carry products that require no customized setup or installation, B&O America president Zean Nielsen said Wednesday evening here at an unveiling event.
The series is designed to familiarize a broader consumer base with the B&O brand and eventually entice Play buyers into buying higher ticket B&O products, which include big-screen TVs and multi-room-audio systems, he said.
The Bang & Olufsen subbrand launched at January’s International CES with a $799 AC/DC AirPlay speaker, which was followed by a May unveiling of four other products. Those products consist of two LCD TVs at $3,249 and $3,999, an $1,149 BeoPlay A8 tabletop iPod/iPhone/iPad-docking speaker with built-in AirPlay and WiFi, and a $549 wedge-shaped BeoPlay A3 AC/DC ``speaker frame” for iPads.
The new 32-pound A9 will be available in late November in B&O-branded stores, the B&O Play online store (Store.Beoplay.com), select Apple stores, and Apple’s online store online. The company will begin to market Play products in the next 12 months to service-oriented A/V specialists, high-end department and furniture stores, and the like, Nielsen added. ”We want the core [B&O-branded] stores to see the benefits first.”
The A9 features a choice of solid-wood screw-in legs in oak, beech or teak. The stretchable fabric that covers the front of the disc is available in silver, white, black, red, green and brown. The beech legs and white fabric cover are standard.
The system features two 0.75-inch tweeters and two 3-inch midrange units, each driven by separate class D amplifiers. An 8-inch bass driver is powered by its own amp. DSP deepens bass response and automatically balances bass response with the rest of the frequency spectrum when volume is raised or lowered.
Polished aluminum surrounds the perimeter of the disc. A series of touch sensors along the top-back edge of the disc lets users raise and lower volume by sliding a hand from left to right and back. Volume can also be adjusted from Apple and Android mobile devices.
The A9 also features line input to play music from other devices.
In other introductions, Bang & Olufsen will offer its A3 iPad speaker frame in white and red, joining the original black version, in mid October.
It also launched a new limited-edition brown Havana color and stand for the Play-series LED LCD TVs. The stand, matching in color, features wheels.
The Play series, said Nielsen, already accounts for 10 percent to 20 percent of B&O store sales in the U.S., depending on the store, although the percentages partly reflect the dropping of select products in the company’s core brand.
In response to other questions, Nielsen said B&O sales globally rose 4.9 percent in the fiscal year ending May 31 but were up 17 percent in the U.S., making the U.S. the company’s highest growth market in the previous year. The year ending May marked the third consecutive year of growing U.S. sales, which include the company’s direct sales to the hospitality industry.
U.S. growth came with a slight expansion in the company’s U.S. store count and by moving other stores to better or larger locations, Nielsen said. In the fiscal year ending May, the company increased its store count by one, and the number went up by three or four in the preceding year, he said. ”This year the goal is five or more net [new stores],” Nielsen said.
The five net new stores include a Miami and Los Angeles store opening next week, bringing the U.S. store count to 54.
In the previous fiscal year, the company posted a 40.6 percent gross margin, up from the year-ago 39.2 percent, and a 160 percent rise in profits before taxes to DKK 104 million ($18.1 million). Sales rose 4.9 percent to DKK 3,008 million ($523.4 million) from the year-ago period.
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