Are AV Tradeshows a Thing of the Past?

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Even before the outbreak of a global, viral respiratory pandemic, your local stereo store was likely sick in its own right. In the heyday of the AV hobby, there were brick and mortar stores at the A-level, B-level and more obscure-brand-laden C-list retailers. In many major cities in the United States, one could find most of the best audiophile and home theater brands well represented with active demos that allowed you, the AV enthusiast, to experience the audio and video goodness that inspired decades’ worth of system upgrades.

COVID-19 has crushed the idea of home theater tradeshows for 2020 and likely most of 2021. With the decline of brick and mortar AV stores has the idea of actually listening to a demo of HiFi gear before you purchase it a thing of the past? Check out our thoughts on the future of listening to, and purchasing new AV gear.

CES-virtual.jpg


Read: Are AV Tradeshows a Thing of the Past?
 
H

Hetfield

Audioholic General
Not to sound old here but when I got into Home theater when I was 21 which makes it about 23 years ago I went to a brick and mortar store to buy Def Tech speakers back when that was the only place you could buy them. They had a room set up with every speaker and sub they made and you got a demo of how it sounded for as long as you liked.
Man those days were expensive and I was green and didn't know a thing about HT. I bought some really, really expensive gear. I was young, making a great money with no responsibility at all. A 4,000 pair of speakers, no big deal!
Now I'm rocking RSL speakers and SVS sub that I swear it's just as good as those expensive speakers at a fraction of the cost of just one speaker back then.

Sent from my Pixel 4 XL using Tapatalk
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
Old? I started selling audio in February of 1978- it was actually a decent job at the time but unless a store has the ability to sell at low prices and maintain a large enough faithful customer base, it's hard to stay in business.

Q- How do you make a small fortune in the AV business?
A- Start with a large one.

The reason B&M stores closed is because online sellers whored the equipment out at close to dealer cost, whether they were authorized to the brands, or not. They would get products that were supposed to go to other countries/continents and it really started in a big way back in the early-'80s, when the Walkman hit the stores. This is called 'Gray market'- not as illegal as black market, but it still effs up the market and the legitimate dealer network because the shipments came in marked as something else in many cases.

People stopped seeing the value in going to a store and receiving service and decided that they would no longer pay the higher price. WRT "It was really expensive"- do you not understand that running a retail operation, paying rent, wages, insurance, interest, maintenance and every other expense has to be paid? What about after-sale support? People coming in with the same questions that are asked on every forum happened EVERY DAY in retail stores and it wasted our time because we couldn't very well just blow them off, or they would go somewhere else and spend their money.

When local stores fail because 'profit' has become a dirty word but people spend more online in a given time period and make someone like Jeff Bezos the wealthiest person on the planet, the ones who killed retail by avoiding it need to look in the mirror if they want to see who needs to accept a lot of the blame.

To be fair, retailers were to blame, too- when prices drop, expenses need to drop too, and that means they can't afford to employ the best people, so you get what you pay for- go to the Best Buy stores that aren't part of Magnolia and try to get good information. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Manufacturers are to blame, too- they stopped training people at stores to sell the equipment because, after all, the sales people won't be there long enough for the training to do any good, so why bother? They had ended their practice of training service techs because the decision was made to sell finished products, not parts & service, which means that it's damned hard to find a place that can repair equipment. One of the main reasons for this is that there just weren't enough people entering the field of electronic service and they weren't going to educate people from the ground up. The only ones on a local level who know how to do this kind of work are either dying or retiring, or they know how but don't do it as a job and they wouldn't want to.

Having written all of this, people need to realize that they often cause the problems they experience when their system doesn't work because they refuse to read the manuals, to see how it's supposed to be set up. They don't understand much/anything about this stuff and come to online forums to find answers to questions that they should be able to find on their own but don't bother to look because it's easier to just ask someone, as if they were a little kid repeatedly tugging on someone's sleeve.

People are too eager to step over the dollars to pick up the nickels. People were too short-sighted to see that buying something without getting the correct info and focused on the price- it's not new, but it became so prevalent that it killed retail, with retailers handing potential customers the dagger.

Better hope Craig's List installers don't kill the CI chain because people are really gonna hate setting this stuff up and using it.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
Honestly, huge trade shows for people in the industry are a royal PITA. For those who are on the outside, it's a source of fascination.
 
J

jeffca

Audioholic Intern
Brick and mortar stores for just about everything are having a tough go of it right now. It's not just audio equipment.

To the point, though, for a good slice of audio manufacturers, direct sales are a better option. There are significant costs with direct marketing, but companies who do it well can be more profitable.

Personally, I haven't bought any equipment from a A/V store location in over 20 years. Once I could strenuously research prospective equipment on the net, the need to go to a store and audition stuff went out the window. That's bolstered by the fact that none of the equipment I bought didn't sound great and it all cost less than buying it from a store in person.

And, finally, when it comes to audio trade shows, are they really necessary? Auditioning equipment on a huge, noisy convention arena floor or in a crappy sounding hotel room? Other than for PR purposes, I think not. It seems like a giant waste of energy and time for all involved.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Honestly, huge trade shows for people in the industry are a royal PITA. For those who are on the outside, it's a source of fascination.
LOL sounds about right after my brief bit in the bike industry and going to its major trade show both as an outsider in that age of fascination, then later as an insider, as well as getting earfuls from many who went every year.

Even in my usual trade in logistics I hated dealing with trade shows....seems they're often a pain for those putting them on, too :) I do wonder what's happening with all the workers at such....lots of guys in putting on shows of various sorts, music included, are in pretty dire straits due lack of work.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
LOL sounds about right after my brief bit in the bike industry and going to its major trade show both as an outsider in that age of fascination, then later as an insider, as well as getting earfuls from many who went every year.

Even in my usual trade in logistics I hated dealing with trade shows....seems they're often a pain for those putting them on, too :) I do wonder what's happening with all the workers at such....lots of guys in putting on shows of various sorts, music included, are in pretty dire straits due lack of work.
One problem I and others always had with audio trade shows is the fact that everyone wants their products to be heard over the rest, which means, naturally, they increase the level of the audio. It also means that in order to avoid hearing damage, ear plugs are necessary and after 12-15 hours of this crap, saying people are annoyed is the understatement of the year.

Getting free stuff wasn't a bad thing, but sometimes, going to CES was just a waste of time. The deep-fried jumbo shrimp at the Sanyo hospitality suite were AMAZING.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
Brick and mortar stores for just about everything are having a tough go of it right now. It's not just audio equipment.

To the point, though, for a good slice of audio manufacturers, direct sales are a better option. There are significant costs with direct marketing, but companies who do it well can be more profitable.

Personally, I haven't bought any equipment from a A/V store location in over 20 years. Once I could strenuously research prospective equipment on the net, the need to go to a store and audition stuff went out the window. That's bolstered by the fact that none of the equipment I bought didn't sound great and it all cost less than buying it from a store in person.

And, finally, when it comes to audio trade shows, are they really necessary? Auditioning equipment on a huge, noisy convention arena floor or in a crappy sounding hotel room? Other than for PR purposes, I think not. It seems like a giant waste of energy and time for all involved.
Not all B&M stores are having a hard time, but AV is the industry I am familiar with and am still in.

The Consumer Electronics Show was the time when dealers made their buying deals for the year- volume discounts were discussed, delivery/shipping options were considered and in many cases, new relationships were formed after seeing new companies and their products. In some cases, seeing a new brand was a kind of springboard for both, if the dealers were enthusiastic enough to sell those new products when nobody had heard of them, as our store did with Jamo- we were the second US dealer to sign up with them and if it had been practical to do at the time, we should have bought their speakers by the container- it would certainly have saved on travel time for the store owner because he only had a full-size GM van and we would sometimes sell all of what he had picked up the day before + much of what he was bringing, before he even returned from the next trip. OTOH, gas was cheap, so....

Part of the problem with having a B&M store when people can buy online is that people still go to the stores to get info and then, they buy online with the added super-special benefit of going to online forums to bitch about how the people at the store was rude after learning that the 'potential customers' weren't going to buy anything. It happened when catalog dealers existed, then larger retailers would come to town with their dog & pony show, selling outside of their own market and leaving people screwed, lied to and without factory-authorized service options because most dealers were set up to service what they sold, but repairing products from other dealers was optional. It just wasn't practical to service everything from all sellers and we definitely couldn't justify being in the (un)enviable position of telling our customers that we hadn't gotten to fixing their equipment because we had too much stuff from people who hadn't bought anything from us. Our customers came first, period.

Even wholesale distributors see people in the industry buying from someone else- I can buy locally, or find it online, often for less. They can't necessarily match the price because they may not buy directly from the manufacturers, so their price has markup built in, too. Then, they mark it up to us and we have to make a few shekels, or we'll go under and there's no point in selling something that has additional costs if we don't make money. We aren't a damn charity and we don't appreciate people picking our brain and then, buying from someone else.
 
Montucky

Montucky

Full Audioholic
Not all B&M stores are having a hard time, but AV is the industry I am familiar with and am still in.

The Consumer Electronics Show was the time when dealers made their buying deals for the year- volume discounts were discussed, delivery/shipping options were considered and in many cases, new relationships were formed after seeing new companies and their products. In some cases, seeing a new brand was a kind of springboard for both, if the dealers were enthusiastic enough to sell those new products when nobody had heard of them, as our store did with Jamo- we were the second US dealer to sign up with them and if it had been practical to do at the time, we should have bought their speakers by the container- it would certainly have saved on travel time for the store owner because he only had a full-size GM van and we would sometimes sell all of what he had picked up the day before + much of what he was bringing, before he even returned from the next trip. OTOH, gas was cheap, so....

Part of the problem with having a B&M store when people can buy online is that people still go to the stores to get info and then, they buy online with the added super-special benefit of going to online forums to bitch about how the people at the store was rude after learning that the 'potential customers' weren't going to buy anything. It happened when catalog dealers existed, then larger retailers would come to town with their dog & pony show, selling outside of their own market and leaving people screwed, lied to and without factory-authorized service options because most dealers were set up to service what they sold, but repairing products from other dealers was optional. It just wasn't practical to service everything from all sellers and we definitely couldn't justify being in the (un)enviable position of telling our customers that we hadn't gotten to fixing their equipment because we had too much stuff from people who hadn't bought anything from us. Our customers came first, period.

Even wholesale distributors see people in the industry buying from someone else- I can buy locally, or find it online, often for less. They can't necessarily match the price because they may not buy directly from the manufacturers, so their price has markup built in, too. Then, they mark it up to us and we have to make a few shekels, or we'll go under and there's no point in selling something that has additional costs if we don't make money. We aren't a damn charity and we don't appreciate people picking our brain and then, buying from someone else.
Yup. The worst would-be "customers" were the ones who'd come in like once a week for months on end, hemming and hawing over a decision. My sales staff would spend inordinate amounts of time with them, helping them navigate the ins and outs of the products, pricing, keeping them apprised of sales, etc. Even going as far as doing in-home consults for measuring their spaces or offering better guidance. Small town, so wasn't ever too far or anything. Still, it always killed me when I'd see XYZ customer around town and ask what TV or AVR they ended up picked and they'd be like "Oh yeah. I decided on this or that. I just ordered it from Amazon." Me: "You DO realize that as an authorized Sony/Yamaha/etc. dealer that we offer the exact same sales prices along with free delivery and setup, right? Plus we had those in stock so we could've even done same day delivery." /FACEPALM

Then those same @$$holes would have the nerve to come into our store to bug my sales staff with technical questions. "So, uhh, on my SONY XBR-whatever I can't figure out how to set up Netflix. What do I do?" One of my salespeople had enough and was like "Yeah, you'll have to call Amazon for that one. Sorry." Haha.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
Yup. The worst would-be "customers" were the ones who'd come in like once a week for months on end, hemming and hawing over a decision. My sales staff would spend inordinate amounts of time with them, helping them navigate the ins and outs of the products, pricing, keeping them apprised of sales, etc. Even going as far as doing in-home consults for measuring their spaces or offering better guidance. Small town, so wasn't ever too far or anything. Still, it always killed me when I'd see XYZ customer around town and ask what TV or AVR they ended up picked and they'd be like "Oh yeah. I decided on this or that. I just ordered it from Amazon." Me: "You DO realize that as an authorized Sony/Yamaha/etc. dealer that we offer the exact same sales prices along with free delivery and setup, right? Plus we had those in stock so we could've even done same day delivery." /FACEPALM

Then those same @$$holes would have the nerve to come into our store to bug my sales staff with technical questions. "So, uhh, on my SONY XBR-whatever I can't figure out how to set up Netflix. What do I do?" One of my salespeople had enough and was like "Yeah, you'll have to call Amazon for that one. Sorry." Haha.

Ahhh, the joys of retail....
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
One problem I and others always had with audio trade shows is the fact that everyone wants their products to be heard over the rest, which means, naturally, they increase the level of the audio. It also means that in order to avoid hearing damage, ear plugs are necessary and after 12-15 hours of this crap, saying people are annoyed is the understatement of the year.

Getting free stuff wasn't a bad thing, but sometimes, going to CES was just a waste of time. The deep-fried jumbo shrimp at the Sanyo hospitality suite were AMAZING.
We had some good food/beer and distractions like the Marzocchi girls
marzocchi girls.jpg
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
Yup. The worst would-be "customers" were the ones who'd come in like once a week for months on end, hemming and hawing over a decision. My sales staff would spend inordinate amounts of time with them, helping them navigate the ins and outs of the products, pricing, keeping them apprised of sales, etc. Even going as far as doing in-home consults for measuring their spaces or offering better guidance. Small town, so wasn't ever too far or anything. Still, it always killed me when I'd see XYZ customer around town and ask what TV or AVR they ended up picked and they'd be like "Oh yeah. I decided on this or that. I just ordered it from Amazon." Me: "You DO realize that as an authorized Sony/Yamaha/etc. dealer that we offer the exact same sales prices along with free delivery and setup, right? Plus we had those in stock so we could've even done same day delivery." /FACEPALM

Then those same @$$holes would have the nerve to come into our store to bug my sales staff with technical questions. "So, uhh, on my SONY XBR-whatever I can't figure out how to set up Netflix. What do I do?" One of my salespeople had enough and was like "Yeah, you'll have to call Amazon for that one. Sorry." Haha.
If there's nothing else to do (yeah, right- in retail, there's ALWAYS something that needs to be done), educating people isn't a bad thing and can make strokers into long-time customers- we used to spend the time teaching kids about audio and the owner would tell us to stop wasting time on them. I left in April of 1988 and many of those same 'time wasters' remained loyal customers until the store finally closed more than 25 years later. One of them is a good friend- he had worked across the hall at the mall and he still has a pair of speakers that he bought from me- he actually sold audio at two higher-end stores and was a rep for a firm that sold Revel and other name brands. He still likes those speakers and doesn't have any plans to sell them, more than 35 years later. I went to a party and met the wife of another kid who used to go to the store and she said he still had the whole system that he bought from me- that was over 30 years later, too.
 
Montucky

Montucky

Full Audioholic
If there's nothing else to do (yeah, right- in retail, there's ALWAYS something that needs to be done), educating people isn't a bad thing and can make strokers into long-time customers- we used to spend the time teaching kids about audio and the owner would tell us to stop wasting time on them. I left in April of 1988 and many of those same 'time wasters' remained loyal customers until the store finally closed more than 25 years later. One of them is a good friend- he had worked across the hall at the mall and he still has a pair of speakers that he bought from me- he actually sold audio at two higher-end stores and was a rep for a firm that sold Revel and other name brands. He still likes those speakers and doesn't have any plans to sell them, more than 35 years later. I went to a party and met the wife of another kid who used to go to the store and she said he still had the whole system that he bought from me- that was over 30 years later, too.
That's awesome. I didn't mind educating people or spending time with them, as it truly was our passion. We mostly just got annoyed when they'd use our resources to make a decision and THEN purchase said product from an online source like Amazon. And then want us to be their "tech support." Like you said above though, thus are the "joys of retail" these days. A shame we didn't make it though, because overall having a store was freaking awesome and such a pleasure. I miss it. Just wish it was more viable these days. We would've been ESPECIALLY screwed this year, so if it we didn't shut our doors before, we certainly would have this year. I sure hope retail makes a come back some day.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
That's awesome. I didn't mind educating people or spending time with them, as it truly was our passion. We mostly just got annoyed when they'd use our resources to make a decision and THEN purchase said product from an online source like Amazon. And then want us to be their "tech support." Like you said above though, thus are the "joys of retail" these days. A shame we didn't make it though, because overall having a store was freaking awesome and such a pleasure. I miss it. Just wish it was more viable these days. We would've been ESPECIALLY screwed this year, so if it we didn't shut our doors before, we certainly would have this year. I sure hope retail makes a come back some day.
I think a store can work, but it has to be done in a way that controls the cost, refuses to try to stock everything and trains the people well. Make it convenient- stock good quality accessories that are commonly needed in a pinch, don't claim to sell 'The Best Equipment EVER!' and don't BS people.

Where did you work?
 
slipperybidness

slipperybidness

Audioholic Warlord
If there's nothing else to do (yeah, right- in retail, there's ALWAYS something that needs to be done), educating people isn't a bad thing and can make strokers into long-time customers- we used to spend the time teaching kids about audio and the owner would tell us to stop wasting time on them. I left in April of 1988 and many of those same 'time wasters' remained loyal customers until the store finally closed more than 25 years later. One of them is a good friend- he had worked across the hall at the mall and he still has a pair of speakers that he bought from me- he actually sold audio at two higher-end stores and was a rep for a firm that sold Revel and other name brands. He still likes those speakers and doesn't have any plans to sell them, more than 35 years later. I went to a party and met the wife of another kid who used to go to the store and she said he still had the whole system that he bought from me- that was over 30 years later, too.
Investing time in potential customers must be considered a benefit, not a waste!

You just never know when the kid you talk to today may be the best customer in a few years with a large bank roll, and he certainly won't forget the time you gave him when he was a broke kid.

Furthermore, the people in these particular niche industries (audio, biking, etc) should be so passionate about their work that they actually like to discuss and educate, regardless of the $ at the end of the day.

I have personally been on the end of a salesman "profiling" me on more than 1 occasion, where he was clearly thinking to himself, "there is no way this chump can afford this stuff, he is wasting my time". Well, that a-hole lost a lot of $ and a lot of potential $ due to his preconceived world view.

I have also had the exact opposite experiences, and those are the ones that gain a customer for life, and possibly several thousand of my dollars.

One time I went into a bike shop, fairly early, just 1 other customer. I went in there to ask some questions and it was part of my info gathering looking for a new bike. The guy behind the counter was still drinking his morning coffee, and we had a long chat, he answered all my questions, and we started looking at some bikes and pricing at his dealer online connection (he did not have the style of bike in stock that I wanted). Other customers came and went, and the other shop guy handled that while we chatted.

Along the way of natural conversation, I discovered that this guy was actually the owner of the bike shop. At the end of about an hour of his time, I told him "get that bike on order, I like the vibe of this shop", furthermore, I ended up going for a step-up model.

So, I went in there just intending to talk, get some info, see what stock they had, and go about my day. I left with a deposit, a bike on the way, and an agreement to pay ~$1k for a new bike. Since then, I have paid that shop another ~$1k over the next few years.

That is a pretty dang good return on investment for an hour of chit chat.
 
slipperybidness

slipperybidness

Audioholic Warlord
That's awesome. I didn't mind educating people or spending time with them, as it truly was our passion. We mostly just got annoyed when they'd use our resources to make a decision and THEN purchase said product from an online source like Amazon. And then want us to be their "tech support." Like you said above though, thus are the "joys of retail" these days. A shame we didn't make it though, because overall having a store was freaking awesome and such a pleasure. I miss it. Just wish it was more viable these days. We would've been ESPECIALLY screwed this year, so if it we didn't shut our doors before, we certainly would have this year. I sure hope retail makes a come back some day.
THAT is a huge problem, and also just plain poor etiquette!

I will not do that, as this is exactly how/why businesses shut down.

If I use your time and expertise, then I am personally obligated to purchase your product or service, even if that means I pay a higher $ out of my pocket. Your time and expertise adds value.

That leads to the next point, the vast majority of people do not understand the difference between price and value!

In general, I do a lot more purchases online than B&M. But, I also understand exactly what I "lose" in the deal when I ONLY look at the $ out of my pocket. If the trade off doesn't make sense, then I don't purchase online.
 
Montucky

Montucky

Full Audioholic
I think a store can work, but it has to be done in a way that controls the cost, refuses to try to stock everything and trains the people well. Make it convenient- stock good quality accessories that are commonly needed in a pinch, don't claim to sell 'The Best Equipment EVER!' and don't BS people.

Where did you work?
Truth. My store was in Montana. Gorgeous location. :)
 
Montucky

Montucky

Full Audioholic
THAT is a huge problem, and also just plain poor etiquette!

I will not do that, as this is exactly how/why businesses shut down.

If I use your time and expertise, then I am personally obligated to purchase your product or service, even if that means I pay a higher $ out of my pocket. Your time and expertise adds value.

That leads to the next point, the vast majority of people do not understand the difference between price and value!

In general, I do a lot more purchases online than B&M. But, I also understand exactly what I "lose" in the deal when I ONLY look at the $ out of my pocket. If the trade off doesn't make sense, then I don't purchase online.
I agree. Very true.
 
H

Hetfield

Audioholic General
Truth. My store was in Montana. Gorgeous location. :)
Montana, as in the state of Montana? As someone that lives in an extremely densely populated state I am kinda obsessed by certain low population states, like Montana, North and south Dakota, Wyoming.
That obsession mostly comes from watching the Smithsonian channel show Aerial American. I could never deal with the winters in that states though.

Sent from my Pixel 4 XL using Tapatalk
 

newsletter
  • RBHsound.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis
Top