Blogging to provoke headaches by!
What is going on mates ?
Ends up plenty, for us anyway. Our month of January was affected with plenty of sniffles and Kleenex. Once we got better, well it was time to do things. Aside from the below blogs from the dark side, I did not explain nor was there room for confusion in these dark matters, that for some of us in retail audio, we are managing juuuust fine. I have ten fold explanations to cover this, as to why in this business we have always carved out something special still in these darkish mischievous times. Sure they are that, but for some, we see differently and for some, some are having fun.
There are reasons why we are kept busy most times. First the laughter, the bad jokes, the humanity and the list goes on. Then on a whole different level, there is the knowledge base and in some instances, the high level of expertise, and lastly there is a wholly commitment to our cause and our clients cause to do no harm. We don't waste time responding to our clients, and tend to be quite efficient, if we fail in our view, we will apologize. Give them the best service they deserve... relentlessly.
Then there is the sheer stuff we have, it goes on and on... and on we go. We do not use banks, we are self financing, so we simply do not stress out and our suppliers know they will not be shortchanged. Even with that we find room to insult their sanity... truth be told, we laugh with them NOT at them... riiiight. An additional piece of reality is the fact that we have fun with everybody that we deal with, laughter is another key ingredient, yes, even in these times with retail.
The other main ingredient that makes or breaks us is one word : The word Passion. Did you know all of our floor team listen to music still. Few listen more than your own Lucster himself. For my team and I, it is our soft plate to fall on.
Its also that key term that makes me want to continue in this business. Even invest more in higher end. Companies like JMR and Aqua DACS ( when Kris brought the latter home, he texted me with "Woooooooow". Kris unflappable love of our Sim Audio ACE. I joked that we should weld hand rails on this, he seems to bring it home more often than we have it here. Steve loves his TRIgon amplifier, and many more toys. He listens to Blues and folk...as to Kris, who the hell knows or cares
I have been listening too countless components, the ever glorifying Audio Note OTO SE Signature, then switching to Linn Klimax source, Pathos tube based preamplifier and yes, an all time fave of mine, an PL Mystere 21 power amplifier... on wait... another all time fave, Klipch Corwalls. Add Murata super tweeters just for fun... well you get the picture. I have been limiting my purchases at home in the last year, our entire home, every room, even my bedroom and reading room is full of... you got it, records and CD's. Just listened to the new Tori Amos, yesterday, I love love love it and before that I spent an entire evening listening to Chamber music, Shuberts Trout Quintet, I have approximately 20 or so versions of it, Beethoven's chamber pieces and yes an entire 12 cd box set of Mozart pieces.
Without this profound love of music, we could not deal into the getting into your mind and love of music. We know who you are if you love music. A gent who visited us to listen to JMR speakers last year, brought not only an eclectic source of music, but I thought some of the best music that I ever heard. You see folks, I basically had all he was playing, I was enamored and I told him so, how honored I was in the presence of such a wonderful musical soul. As I stated in those blogs below, what makes us different is the following : We know first hand how any component should divest itself to the service of the music but you as well.
Its this passion that when I decide to invest in some of the lines we have, some are borne from a little bit of business, but mostly passion. Our client base needs no convincing, if we hear something special, we get excited like little kids. So when we brought back Tannoy, we were real excited. The first time listening to our Tannoy Eaton's, were were flabbergasted out of the box. Did you guys know I really get excited over one small speaker, its called the Monitor Audio Gold 50' s. My toes curl when I listen to this piece of magic. Steve bought a pair as well for his system, the man who owned many great speakers.
Does not mean we will sell 1 million pairs, of course not, audio is not the place to witness this. We would like that, but we live in reality. But the fact that we still have our toes curl, lets you know when you know, that we know how you feel ;-). How do you like then apples after reading that ! Sometimes line fails despite the love and our best efforts, these things happen.
The one thing we do know, is despite all the success and failures, what is essential for us to portray is the higher calling that music at a very high level represents for most of us music loving souls. Please go ahead read our WINTER article on our RIGHT NOW page, it tells you what is new and what we actually have ready for you fine folks.
Another point that we need to make, that no matter whom you see falter in our industry, or who disappears and loses, I feel pretty confident in saying, we have been blessed with a mighty and faithful client base throughout our long years, and we simply don't see us slowing down soon. You have our assurance of this, and I suspect the word passion has also something to add. So we say, thanks folks, and don't forget our Nordost show in the months to come... the system is awaiting, its been already planned, could not wait for that... et voila... cheers to all.
The way of business.
This page title does say... blogging to provoke headaches ;-)... well this proves it.
The life of a retailer is never fun, it seems we are always between a rock and a hard place. But let it be said we always try to have more fun that we should be entitled to, and yes, we do.
On one of the small articles on Audio Note on our Right Now key, I state that its our job to sustain a line up and make sure its survive this jungle of ours. I have now being saying out loud that its also the consumer's job to sustain and support and buy any line in any store, in order to guarantee its survival in our " village" as it were. We actually never paid attention to the second part of that equation up until about 1.5 years ago, but I kept it quiet and persevered in supporting any of our line ups. Many know we are very active with all our lines, or babies as it were. That's why I often called this business a cross between poetry and arts and business and technology. Add a little neurotism in that mix!
I have to admit now with the ever fast and changing retail rules, it would be fool hardy to ignore the second part of that equation. Its our job to invest in lines we think folks would want in their homes. We are always guessing if they are a right fit for our clients, but we try our best. However now, we need to see and feel activity around a line from our client base, in todays reality, its a must. We dont sell muffins or cookies or burgers, what we do the few of us doing this, is an expensive to support. Line ups must be economically viable, so if we see a line up on Amazon, or we see folks are not interested, the days of keeping the faith for 2 years or more, is now a thing of the past. We have been honest, in todays market place, this is no more permissible.
For those that interpret this defensively or otherwise or sensing we are blaming the consumer, please dont, we are blaming no one. Its a simple reality where business is going TODAY. Within the coming months we will be focusing and investing more in 2 main areas, one will be where our lines are concerned ( what our clients are interested in and want to buy and let us know of their interest ) and later in the year, that we may be heading in higher waters. Though we see where folks are interested at the level they like, we clearly see that for us, we swim much better in real high end and we get much better response in higher end.
We are unwilling to go there yet, we would like to see where some of our clients go with us this year, but we must in todays climate be willing to entrust and invest with what our clients are interested in seeing and yes, buying. Expect changes in 2018, a great many changes has already occurred, but for now, let us see what there is to salvage with mid fi high end. We play, No games, we are open about this for our clients interest. We are simply providing you with a heads up, we are not immune from present market changes and practices.
But we are here to stay to service our supporting clients in a more focused way and not invest in the promise and hope for better business from what we see as a devastated segmented and highly weakened mid level high end market.
I hope this helps in letting you know where we are in 2018 folks and where we plan on going.
Thanks for your time folks
PS: TIMING IS EVERYTHING... 5 minutes after I wrote this blog and sent it to Roger, we received feedback that a line up that is both technological advanced and highly musical was being taken away from North American distribution. These gents had worked nearly 4 years at great cost, and so did we. I responded to the gent : "...I took this line on because I loved and adored it ( just like they ), knowing fully well it truly had an uphill battle in Canada. Even with this low level expectation to wish success, that this means that I am afraid that loving and hoping for the success of a line up cannot no longer ever be permitted, nor even entertained from the slightest business consideration". We audiophiles have all lost something in that process.
The world has changed for audio, we are listening, and yes, and adapting. As Freddy Mercury's sings so well... another one bites the dust.
For those that have but half an ear on observing and watching news media's, will know how the world of retail is changing. Listening to us audio dudes, we would have you believe that there are a lot of people that buy real high end gear, fact is, it comes down to a few percentiles. Most will buy components worth a few thousand dollars each, remember I did say that it was high end I was writing about. Sometimes folks buy into much more expensive, it happens.
Market forces would have us business types go strictly into the high end, where folks are easier to guide and sell to because they could mostly afford mistakes. Many at this level also do research but are much more willing to entrust us.
The internet has messed up much of the more stable venues where mid high end is being offered ( have a look at Amazon ). In our retail sector of high end, did you know that ALL high end companies have lived to regret getting involved with such sales platforms. Many retail companies who are in our position financially, completely and simply cut ties with the national suppliers or companies. Much to the chagrin of those companies, Amazon and al, was not the magic bullet they thought, they found this out VERY quickly, and yes, trying to get back into solid shops like ours is near impossible. The damage is done BUT for me anyway, what these companies unforgivably forgot, is that it told me they had no clue what is important for us audio professionals to survive. Price is important for some, but its such a small fraction of the total picture.
There is middle ground somewhere. Where lines flail in the wind, its important to stand by and show alliance to it. However, if it fails to stick with hearts and minds, then one doing retail must take a pulse of a line and see where it goes. For us here, the line in the sand was a staggering 2 years, now its 1 year. In todays environment, this must now be done rather quickly, sadly, it actually SHOULD BE done even less than 12 months (( when sales of 1,300.00 Apples smart phone did not give desired sales, they cut production in half in 3 months time )). But let the people speak, hear them out we say. If a line shows activity, and folks support it, hear them out and buy and support the line even more.
Sadly in our business world with companies and suppliers, and yes, even clients, many come and go, we serve a purpose sometimes only once. I often mentioned that shows were part of our DNA here at SPI, part of my DNA. I have a very puritanical and fixed view of my job. Even head strong to extremes ( yet humble dare I say ), I was convinced I was right, because I thought, lets say with shows, it was a pro client or consumer way to let folks know what was beyond and behind those lines we sell on your behalf. But there is a saturation point, also a point of no return in spirit and time... mine was called age ! I am no longer young, and am not old, but the doors to a time where being young is disappearing and slowly slipping away. One must adapt at all levels, even where personal limits are happening.
But where shows are called for, a clear diminishing of shows was called forth, after all those 262 shows in our history. But when Nordost came and asked me to do another one, I jumped at the chance... because I know you folks that attended the last show, loved that day. Let the people speak and be heard, and you folks did speak LOUDLY. I was listening. My crew found the middle line to walk on. Diminish shows, but do these where its important to do them. To come back to my age, well, its one show, not ten shows, so it will not kill me or my crew.
When in late 2017, after a quick 3 shows, 2 of which were on the quite heavy side, my team were told these would near its end, BUT more changes were going to happen that had never been envisioned before.
A case in point, our insisting on having appointments for dems. Why you say ? Because it was right and proper for you to make a decision when all the cards were placed in your favor. It was a trickled down of an old way that where we insisted on a appointment for a real high end system. Though we still insist on appointments for real high end displays, NOW... we are ready at a whim IF WE CAN to set up a system in a moments time. Why ? Not everyone in todays world and reality can make time to come back. They did once before, but that is once before. Let the people speak, we are listening. Now we simply let you know ahead as we are setting up, that the system will need time to warm up. We entrust folks to trust us in what we say.
On quite another level, the world has equally changed so much in the area of time domains, where we are all subject for being or feeling pressured time wise. Rather than shows that demand at least an hour of your time, we have come forth with smaller and more focused dem spots with an @play list in 2018. A quick call, or a quick visit, one can have a personal set up for you at the ready. The pressures we are all under are real, so why should we add to them.
Fact is, its not bad thing where we must go. Change is good, and you know what, SPI will be the better for it. WE WELCOME IT with open arms.
One area where we are unsure about are where retail rules that are changing quicker and some would say meaner, that has obliged us in trimming and cutting beautiful lines that we had worked for so many years. There is nothing nice about that. These wonderful lines are ran by people who make what they deem right for the line. Often at their detriment, but at the lines detriment as well. Often under such retail realities, line ups have few options but to leave or close country wide. We have seen this far to often. Expect this to happen even more.
Yesterdays big moves have been replaced by todays micro moves that are often even more impactful on any business. We are moving forward on many fronts in order to make your life easier to visit us.
I know I am wearing out my welcome mat, but there is a sense of wonderment that great audio brings its owners. A sense of joy, and pride, always difficult to muster a poetic sense when under the guise of "BIZuness", but one that must be respected nonetheless like religion or sacred thoughts. I am listening as I write this small but important blog, a Phillips box set on the Complete Mozart solo piano music. A serenity of thought and moods despite what I am saying here that tells you folks how the world has changed ( as if you need me to spout that BS ). There is a reason I am steady as she goes on those rules I spew out daily at you folks... "use your ears not your mind", "is this YOUR sound", "is it on budget" etc etc... why you say, because it will serve THAT higher calling for a longer time.
Idiotic and mindless dribble you say, perhaps, but take that one equation out and audio is lost for the foreseeable future, maybe for ever. Heading into our 26th year, will prove to be very transformative, but our issues will not be when do we stop adapting, but mostly when and if folks stop believing that what we do strive for something is bigger than the gear we buy. That very sense means that Mozart is in the room with me right now.
Just like if folks stop being enchanted with the stars and the milky way, should this happen with audio today or tomorrow, then if that day is ever perceived, it will be time to retire and tend to my own poetry. As Mulder would say : I still believe, but now I must add, "for now".