Headphones and Home Audio: Part 2

headphones1-0713In the prior installment, I had discussed the surprising growth of headphones in home AV, including how, for some retailers and distributors, their sales now eclipse stereos and surround sound AV equipment.

I also touched on the importance of determining which price level your company should focus on: whether your customers are looking for entry level products or something more high end.

For what it’s worth, that’s not necessarily an easy determination to make. Everybody has their “thing” as it were; their own passions where price sensitivity is less than for other things. For some people four grand for a wrist watch is no big deal, but they think spending five hundred dollars on a pair headphones is crazy.

By that same token, your existing clientele may come to you for upscale AV solutions, but their attitude towards headphones may be decidedly utilitarian: They’re just going to get lost, broken, or their cat will eat the cords (don’t laugh, it happens a lot), so while they commissioned you to install an 84-inch flat panel in their rec room, they don’t want to spend a hundred bucks for a pair of ear buds to work out in.

sony-mdr-v700-headphones-0713With that in mind, some thought has to go into how you’re going to do the headphone business. If you’re going to do it at all, you need to do it right. It’s been my observation over the years that AV dealers who branch out at random, and slap new businesses onto their old ones like two handfuls of Playdoh only to see disappointing sales.

In some rare cases, I’ve seen AV dealers go long on plays that were, at best, a Hail Mary pass, and it sank them into bankruptcy. I don’t say that to try and scare you, just to remind you to think things all the way through.

As a specialty AV dealer, your best bet is to commit to an effective demo display, which needs to be an attractive presentation, be functional from a demo perspective (allowing switching between your own demo sources and the customer’s iPod/iPhone), and incorporate loss prevention anti-theft systems.

The reason for demonstration capability is simple: people buy cheap headphones based on some combination of price, color, brand awareness and prior experiences. More expensive headphones require both knowledgeable sales personnel and the opportunity to listen to them, no different from taking a sports car out for a test drive.

Frankly, the retail landscape is already littered with places where people can buy headphones off the shelf without trying them first. Really, doing the same in your business doesn’t differentiate you one bit from even the drug store down the street, let alone Best Buy. So if you’re going to go at all, go all in with a full-service experience.

Reach Lee Distad at lee@ravepubs.com or on Twitter.