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Changes Abound In Specialty A/V

7/21/2010 11:43:00 AM

This month changes in the specialty A/V market came to the surface and, depending upon your viewpoint, are either ominous or hopeful.

After the demise of Ken Crane’s and Flanner’s in June came the news of changes in distribution for two well-known upscale audio brands.

Thiel, which began selling online through Crutchfield in 2007 and later Audio Advisor, added the biggest online retailer of them all this month: Amazon.com.

And Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) said a few days ago that it is going to sell its high-end home speakers to selected Magnolia Design Center and Magnolia Audio Video outlets to compensate for geographic gaps in its dealer base.

But the good news for A/V specialists is that B&W is not going online with its speakers and is not “giving up on independent A/V specialists,” according to group chairman Joe Atkins.

While Thiel and B&W are not abandoning specialty A/V dealers these decisions can’t make them feel all warm and fuzzy either, especially as the industry begins preparations for CEDIA Expo in September.

On the dealer side of the market investments are being made in, of all businesses, specialty A/V retailing. In early July Colder’s, a four-store independent dealer in Milwaukee that is a member of Brand Source’s Home Entertainment Source division, announced that it acquired Flanner’s Home Entertainment.

Randy Felker, whose family owns Colder’s, told TWICE that Flanner’s A/V specialty model is “very strong” and that the Flanner’s brand “can still reach a market that can buy the latest and greatest.”

And Sound Advice, the premium A/V chain based in Florida is making a comeback and based on the Talkback response to our story, it seems to have given the industry a welcomed confidence boost.

That boost probably is due to the fact that former chairman/CEO Peter Beshouri and senior executive Michael Blumberg reacquired the brand from Tweeter’s bankruptcy sale and will be running the operation. They will start with a website that will appear in September and a showroom which will open later in the year.

Sound Advice will collaborate with Jon Myer, formerly of the departed MyerEmco, who may also re-enter the marketplace with a similar format.

Beshouri told TWICE that the loss of strong regional A/V specialists has created “an extraordinary void in the marketplace and nature abhors a void.”

While success in specialty A/V retailing is never a sure thing, especially in this economy, maybe this scaled-down business model may succeed.

If it does, expect to see more former regional A/V retailers reappear and/or existing dealers stealing a page from Sound Advice’s playbook.

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