Write Inside

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Write Inside

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Mon Apr 29, 2019 4:43 am

Write Inside was a trade magazine that invited comment and letters from trade members - so I wrote a a couple of letters expressing my frustration with this bent and controlled industry in about 1990. I have often referred to them here as the point the rest of the industry turned on me for telling the truth, and in the end led to me going direct when it became possible. Well I thought I had lost it, but now found it so here it is.

Write Inside

Dear Angela,

Seeing it is not only you but some of your more prominent!! readers asking for more letters in your mag, I thought I would make another attempt at the bubbly. I would like to follow up on the theme of my letter of last year. That letter enticed two 'phone calls, one from Ivor Tiefenbrun explaining at great length!!! his dealer contracts. After I managed to get a word in edgeways I was told if I won't listen there is no point in trying to educate me. And one from Russ Andrews agreeing with everything I said. What this says of the industry or its view of me I will leave open for your interpretation. Apathy rules OK.

What very few people seem to understand is that the so-called cottage side of our industry is to a large extent thriving and a large number of small to medium size companies are exporting like mad. The fact that the restrictive trading practices and pure mismanagement of the retail side of the British Hi-Fi industry has nearly ruined the industry here has forced these companies to do this and in the process they have become an unrecognised British exporting success story. The following is a breakdown of my last years turnover according to country. Please do not consider our position to be unique it probably applies to 80% of UK Hi-Fi companies.

China/Hong Kong 24%
Singapore 5% Taiwan 21%
UK 4% France 12%
Greece 3% Russia 7%
Italy 2% Indonesia 7%
Holland 2% Malaysia 6%
Norway 2%
The remaining 3% split amongst another 7 countries.

When your home market takes only 4% of your turnover you can guess where my priorities lie, though this does give me the freedom to call a spade a spade as I perceive it.

There seems to have been a decision made by a number of leading manufacturers and retailers dating back to the post boom days of the late 1980's that if they were going to have to put up with a receding market place the thing to do was to get a greater share of that smaller market. Hence the poor customer walks into a major retailer these days to be faced with a choice of 4-6 manufactures and these are boringly the same manufactures shop to shop, apart from the valve propeller heads and thank God for them, they are the only spark of originality in the shops today. Well, I would like to say surely it is time for a change, as the recession is no longer with us shouldn't we try to pursue excellence again instead of short term expedience. The whole industry will benefit and the major manufacturers will have to improve their products instead of relying on lack of competition, which must be for the good. In my opinion the like of Julian Richer in his own very different way is addressing this and if more independents sat back and took a good look at their businesses and break out of their complacency and looked at who is controlling them, perhaps they will join the battle of expanding the market instead of acting as new age Luddites.

Richard Dunn
NVA

_D_S_J_R_
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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by _D_S_J_R_ » Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:05 pm

That letter was what, thirty years ago in trade mag 'Inside HiFi' edited by Angela Curtis?

THIRTY YEARS or so is a hell of a long time ago now and most of the dealers around back then have gone I suspect. Either that, or they've semi retired... I finished in so-called 'Top End' audio retail in 2004 which is what, fifteen years back and it's changed a hell of a lot since then.

I feel we need to look to the future now, what little future the remains of the UK side of the industry has to offer. Traditional mid-fi makers like Linn and naim have now pushed their prices up-market and they do have some good Hi-tech products still, albeit at mouth watering prices. The fact that a few little plastic boxes with Pi's and add-ons inside can probably do much the same job with a tablet display in tow is irrelevant, as better off old audio geeks like me (old audio, not better off...) who buy this stuff have more than enough funds to buy a Linn or Naim deluxe streamer as well as taking a hit when the new model comes out and wipes out most remaining value of the previous generation.

I suspect the few UK made products out there have always had the home market as tiny compared to their world sales and I don't think anything has changed now.

As I see it, mainstream new gear (I'm thinking what was Arcam, Rotel, Denon, lower cost MF and so on) is selling sporadically and the very few bits left are niche items. Rega and Pro-ject have cheap turntables (there's a Pro-ject one for £150 including cartridge ffs) which can be got outside of the dealer network and just maybe, buyers might look at the other gear made by these people. Otherwise, once me and my lot have gone over the next few decades, 'HiFi' as I/we knew it will be over apart from the luxury end where any old tat can be dressed up with a humungous price tag...- even then, buyers of such tat are getting on a bit I suspect - mid 50's upwards in my recent experience andmost I believe, are 60+ as I am...
Last edited by _D_S_J_R_ on Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:13 pm

THEY want the future to be the past THEY want to control you and your choices, individual people may change and come and go, the SHIT doesn't we still have it with retailers. Not as bad though as those 6 manufacturer no longer strangle the hobby, but others like Harbeth come up playing the same stoooopod games - brainwash!

Anyway the point of posting it was to show how we have become the enemy in the period since - someone to try and put out of business as we are a threat to their slurp.

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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by _D_S_J_R_ » Mon Apr 29, 2019 12:28 pm

Harbeth have been on a steep learning curve in recent years. The runaway success of their recent anniversary issue speakers with nigh-on a grand added to retail prices of each model has shown that. Future models will be priced higher as the market wants to pay this and product life cycles will be shorter too, as the wealthy far eastern market wants fresh new bling regularly.

Who's 'THEY' wanting to control choice? Footfall is so low that dealers CAN'T stock loads of stuff they have to buy in. If it sits there messing with their cash-flow, it has to go eventually. Whatever 'we' think, Linn and Naim make gear a sector of the market WANTS to buy and Kudos and PMC make me-too speakers to help furnish that need. Dealers don't TELL visitors any more what they've got to have (they've all gone now), and if they got too insistent, the prospective clients just walk away now...

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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Geoff.R.G » Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:19 pm

Whilst I am no expert on the retail side of Hi-Fi I must comment on this. It seems to me that much of what is available today is directed at the "Home Cinema" rather than just music reproduction. Another factor is what I will call "domestic integration" or does it match my decor? Rarely, when visiting friends, do I see floor standing speakers, or any speakers for that matter many prefering the convenience of an iPod dock. I can understand why, it is portable and convenient. Speakers take up space that few seem to be willing to sacrifice and the TV seems more important.

As with photography it seems that convenience and portability trumps quality. I get the impression that huge numbers of people are happy with music and photographs on their phone. I use an old phone as an iPod in the car and it beats my previous CD changers for convenience and variety so I can see the attraction to some extent. Actually I have a problem with people who can't abide silence.

This prompts the question just who is buying all this Linn, Naim etc. equipment? I don't think it is Mr Average or even Mr/Ms Better off than average. How many people are there that are willing to buy over priced products so that they can brag about the cost?

I also don't understand why any manufacturer would want to have dealers getting a high percentage of the purchase price of their product when they could potentially sell direct and increase their own margins. Other industries are moving that way so why not Hi-Fi?

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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Classicrock » Mon Apr 29, 2019 2:57 pm

The people who buy most of this stuff in the Uk are probably old hi-fi enthusiasts with a bit of inherited cash or an equity release. I think reading the pro Linn arguments elsewhere they are people pretty wedded to the brand. Yes overpriced but only crazy if you head for the top of the range. Always been an adequate number of highly paid professionals to move a few units. Rest I imagine go to the far east. Singapore has many high end hi-fi shops unlike anywhere here even including London. There are plenty customers for high end bling especially as most won't have the knowledge to know what is inside the box is pretty standard design. Everyone is jacking prices but I don't know if this money is just going to retailers or the manufacturer. Sometimes a fairly priced product starts to look too cheap against the opposition and prices go up to give credibility.

I've just noticed a Michell Orbe is now £900 more than I paid 2 years ago and it is well known SME went up 25% when a distributor (part of the same company ) was introduced in the UK. It's a question as to how much more some prices can go up before sales shrink further. I get the impression as far as upper mid range and high end hi-fi is concerned there is a big enough niche world market to sustain most of these companies. Some are being snapped up by large conglomerates. As has been pointed out due to online sales we are paying export prices so that in most parts of the world the price appears similar. I find it very strange that any of them would be worried about NVA direct sales. I think that is likely confined to a small number of Uk dealers on forums who's business' are pretty fragile. Not the likes of Audio Affair, Hi-Fi Corner or KJ.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:13 pm

Then you explain why we are attacked so much and it started then - reality is reality - the truth is the truth - facts are facts. Perhaps it became habit. I cannot post anywhere without being attacked, others cannot post anywhere about NVA without being attacked, and if this forum is mentioned then things boil.

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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Classicrock » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:34 pm

It's the small number of dealers that use forums to sell product IMO. Plus there are a small number of people who have some unexplained grudge or linked to certain forum owners. I have even had it when discussing NVA on Hoffman. Someone deliberately introducing a trolling post (UK member) that gets the whole thread closed. It's a sort of herd mentality but I can't believe any of them are serious players in the Industry. Mainly related to some spat you have had with mainly AOS, Pink Fish or Wam people I suspect. Believe me you get plenty of agro by pointing out how crap Linn and Naim are even if you are fairly anonymous rather than known as a competing manufacturer. Fortunately as many who will agree.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Wed May 01, 2019 5:02 pm

Ludicrous Sav is at it again, getting completely the wrong end of the stick per usual.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Write Inside

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Wed May 01, 2019 5:02 pm

Ludicrous Sav is at it again, getting completely the wrong end of the stick per usual.

The story becomes me, but if *reality* is seen it is obviously about them.

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