Raleigh, N.C. — Scott Newnam, president and CEO of 30-year old Audio Advice, recently told TWICE that his company anticipated the current economic environment and has worked over the past year to "invest to position ourselves [to be prepared] in the event of a downturn" by making improvements to its processing and information systems. The company also recently purchased a security business and a former competing local high-end custom installation service in an effort to beef up its offerings.
TWICE has named the company the Best Specialty A/V Retailer in its 2008 Excellence in Retailing Awards.
Leon Shaw, the retailer's founder and chairman, began the business in 1978, primarily selling hi-fis, but the business — which maintains its single 15,000 square foot location — has evolved to include home theater, home automation, high-performance audio and lighting control as well as security and networking.
Shaw said the company now installs about 90 percent of the products and systems it sells and also services many of these devices post-sale.
Shaw told TWICE that his customer base generally skews high-end. He said his company is fortunate to be located in the Research Triangle Park-area of North Carolina because, he said, "most people are up on technology" and can therefore appreciate the dealer's focus on demonstrating the products it is selling. For demonstration purposes, Shaw said the showroom features three dedicated theater rooms, three rooms for listening to speakers and a "house-within-a-store" area showcasing products that can be used in kitchens or outdoors.
"I tried to design the store to create an excitement, to let you know you're not in a typical retailer," said Shaw.
As the company's products and services have evolved, so too has its customer base. Newnam told TWICE that Audio Advice has historically appealed to "early adopters" but that more recently it has been serving an increasing amount of luxury customers.
Newnam said this has signaled a "cultural change for the business" as it has had to adjust its approach in order to adequately meet the needs of this new and expanding audience. Newnam said luxury customers have higher expectations than most early adopters. He said the main priority for a luxury customer is that the system works smoothly and right away, whereas, he said, early adopters are generally more forgiving during the process of working out the kinks of a new technology.
Newnam and Shaw explained that the company satisfies these customers because of the focus it puts on selecting the right product mix. They said the company puts forth a significant "time and capitol investment" to test products before ever introducing them to customers, a practice they said pays off in the end.