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What’s Right?

TWICE: Can you point to some things that retailers are doing right in merchandising component audio?

Harman: They should be merchandising complete systems and combining video with an appropriate audio solution. Some of our dealers are offering complete systems that even include all the necessary audio/video cables. The real key to success is making certain that all the components are matched to provide a complete solution that delivers maximum performance.

There is no great mystery in what should be done. Good retailers have been doing it for years. Simply set up and demonstrate systems in a manner that reflects how a customer might use them at home and delivers on the promise of a great experience. By providing a visualization of how these “boxes” and “gadgets” live and work in a familiar environment, the customer “gets it” much better than if the components are stacked up in a soundroom or on countless shelves.

Kroll: Many forward-thinking retailers have begun to convert their demo rooms into lifestyle showrooms, which is how today’s upmarket consumers like to shop for their theater and audio experiences.

The best retailers make control systems and integrated remotes part of the systems that they’re showing — recognizing that consumers cannot enjoy what they can’t operate.

Tassio: Successful retailers have trained their salespeople to do quality audio demos as part of every video presentation. We see other dealers setting up and advertising complete component audio/video systems in vignettes, and that we see as a good strategy.

Abram: Some retailers are combining components into a solution, merchandising them with a complementary display, and supporting it with an explanation of why certain components were selected. Also, there are some financing options (monthly payments, etc.) that make the barrier to entry easier for the consumer to clear.

Jacobs: Ovation Audio Video merchandised their newest retail location’s “Ultimate Home Theater” room with all THX Ultra II components controlled by a Media Center PC. We are also beginning to see retailers making it easy to experience quality component systems driven by an Apple iPod. This truly starts to combine technologies that give consumers new reasons to buy!

Gross: The move to system packages with logical step-ups makes it simpler for the salespeople to present and easier for the customer to choose. Some of our more specialty dealers have also decided that every TV on their sales floor will be set up as part of a complete A/V solution. This has been very effective in making it clear that audio is an essential part of the experience and the system.

Stollmack: In addition to returning to more vignettes, retailers are doing a better job of pricing the whole system. This benefits the customer because they have to make fewer decisions if the system is well-merchandised as a package. The store benefits because it is more efficient to install similar systems then to have every one be different. It also helps increase inventory turns if salespeople are trying to sell the same products.

I think Monster Cable has come up with a great idea in using four separate demos to show the importance of using audio with video to create great customer experiences. The dealer is able to show the customer a movie in surround sound, a video game on an Xbox, music demo with DVD-Audio or SACD, and play an iPod through the surround system. The message here is clear: “The experience is greatly enhanced by the use of speakers and a receiver with the TV.”

Very few dealers are showing how XM radio can be used through a whole house system. Most dealers who don’t carry mobile are not very aware about this great new product. I understand that it may not be very profitable, but it will greatly enhance the customer’s enjoyment of their system. I would never buy a whole-house system without XM radio.