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Merchandising: More To Do?

TWICE:Some retailers have rediscovered the value of merchandising audio components more aggressively. Have they been successful?

Gina Harman,Harman Consumer Group Worldwide:We have certainly seen a rise in the merchandising of “virtual” HTiB systems by some key retailers — complete component packages that offer an alternative to typical, lower cost HTiBs.

There is little doubt, as we meet with key retailers around the world, that the single biggest initiative they are focusing on is better audio merchandising. Many are creating enticing audio demonstrations and displays. “Shop-in-shop” and vignette displays are leading the charge. The dealers that have made this commitment are already reaping the rewards; those that have not are suffering.

More retailers need to be more aggressive in merchandising audio; video alone will never pay the bills.

Dean Tassio,Polk: What has been done to date barely scratches the surface of what needs to be done in retail stores. Frankly, we’d like to see every dealer vastly step up the visibility of high-quality audio components, particularly in their video display areas. Yes, that is a self-serving wish on my part, but we strongly believe that doing so is in the best interests of the industry, retailers and most important, the consumers. Well-serving the consumer is the single most important key to success, and who in this roundtable can honestly say that the consumer is well-served by being sold a $5,000 TV with a $400 HTiB?

The dealers we know who have stayed focused on component audio merchandising have held their own in regards to component sales. More telling is the dealers who took their eyes off the component ball and jumped too strongly into HTiB. They have seen the greatest declines in component sales with a subsequent drop in average ticket value and profitability.

Phil Abram,Sony Electronics: Not enough retailers are aggressively merchandising audio and explaining its value in a high-definition world effectively.

T. Paul Jacobs,Klipsch Audio Technologies: Retailer efforts focused on audio are a key factor in the segment’s improvement this year. I’m not aware of any good retailers not already zeroing in on higher profit audio sales, so my advice to any retailer would be to continue experimenting and don’t let the floor merchandising or sales staff get complacent. Keep re-creating and building exciting, new audio environments, and consumers will buy.

David Stollmack,DSConsulting:As I travel around the country, I see few dealers actually merchandising audio more aggressively. There are too many stores where the video displays are extremely prominent and audio almost seems like an afterthought. I have spoken to several dealers who are putting more emphasis on vignette-type merchandising after doing less of it in recent years. I think this is a healthy move. It allows consumers to see and hear the system as it will be set up in their home. This merchandising also reinforces the idea that the experience is best enjoyed when audio is combined with video.