Retail Excellence Awards: Expanding Beyond the “Audio Advisors” Name
Founded in 1982 as a traditional car stereo company, Palm Beach, Fla.-based Audio Advisors has adapted with the ever-evolving retail and consumer technology industries over the last 35 years. Today, the showroom vaguely resembles what a customer might’ve seen walking through the front door way back when, but all of the change has resulted in the company morphing into an award-winning Electronic Systems Contractor that sells, integrates and services every kind of electronic or electrical system in homes and automobiles.
What started as a car audio company has grown into a massive business with expertise in home theater, lighting design and control, motorized windows, communications systems, security, networking, outdoor LED landscaping, and more.
The singular Audio Advisors retailer outfit now exists under The Advisor Companies umbrella, as President Jeff Hoover explained. The Advisor Companies, a 2017 Dealerscope Retail Excellence Award honoree, consists of the legacy brand as well as Serious Autosport, a custom automotive company; Triple Triangle Designs, a custom embroidery shop; and the company’s custom install division that works on homes, boats, and more.
That all sounds like a lot to comprehend—and it might be for some—but Hoover admitted that Audio Advisors wouldn’t be able to stand on its own today, given the current state of retail.
“Home audio, car audio and accessories, the massive service base, the custom business—they all support each other and create opportunities for each other,” he told Dealerscope. “Without the support of the custom home division and Serious Autosport I could never justify the expense of maintaining a store like this with the great retail location and well over $1,000,000 worth of gear on display. But since we have this kind of support it’s not only profitable but it’s a lot of fun as well.”
Hoover wasn’t just pontificating about the decline of retail, either. He told Dealerscope that he’s seen a softening in the home theater market in their retail store. “As a result, there has been minimal sell-through on surround processors and receivers,” he said.
Though he has the support of the other businesses under the umbrella of The Advisor Companies, Hoover said significant changes have been made to the Audio Advisors business which have allowed it to not only remain relevant as a retailer, but to thrive.
And it starts with a focus on being the best business locally.
Sure, they’ve upgraded their website to be more user-friendly, and they’re trying to entice more Millennials to stop by the store by engaging them on social media. But Audio Advisors, and The Advisor Companies as a whole, are more concerned with providing an exceptional in-store experience for customers than they are with competing on a national scale with big-box stores and ecommerce juggernauts.
“What we’re doing is not all that much different than what we did 10 or 20 years ago,” Hoover said. “We’re committed to doing the stuff that has allowed us to be consistently successful in this business: focusing on well-scripted demos, providing a great experience, etc. Going to a Magnolia store and my store are completely different experiences, and we want it to be that way.”
From an offerings perspective, Hoover has aligned his company with what he calls the “perfect mix” of vendors to attract hi-fi guys as well as casual enthusiasts. The store itself has seen the addition of popular products like Sonos to their lineup, as well as the introduction of a high-end headphone bar. They take trade-ins, which Hoover stressed is a crucial aspect of their business. And they “work hard every day to make the store look and smell great (they pop popcorn), and that every display always works,” he said.
Then there’s the service aspect. Hoover has installed a coffee bar, and offers other refreshments, and they provide tours of the entire operation (warehouse included). The store also has a massive auditorium-like room where Hoover said he invites vendors to help train their staff, host launch events for clients, and more. The store, like many retailers today, also has special events where customers can come in, meet vendors, and experience the showroom in a completely different light.
Despite their success, Hoover acknowledged that the Internet really has changed everything for retailers. “It’s been a struggle to make the experience of coming to the store valuable, and the long-term game plan really is to be the last man standing,” he said. “How many audio/video stores are there going to be in five or 10 years?”
Hoover credited the valuable relationship he’s developed with HTSA to the stores’ continued success. But, he said, to ensure his stores stand the test of time, it comes down to bringing together “great salespeople who can become champions for your store.” Whether it’s their renowned vinyl and analog guru Rudi—who literally has people travel from hundreds of miles away to get his advice—or the young sales reps who live and breathe the tech they’re selling, building that cohesive team has been his biggest key to success.
“Things are finally clicking,” he said. “We have a great team, a great showroom, and we operate in a great marketplace.”