Retail Excellence Awards: Hi-Fi Sales is Modernizing the CE Retail Experience
Since its doors opened in 1979, Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Hi-Fi Sales has been an electronics-retailing staple in the local community, serving its hometown as well as nearby Haddonfield and Moorestown. But as with all things retail and technology, the company’s business has had to evolve over the past decade or so to better suit the needs of their clientele, and to help attract new customers into the showroom.
At heart, Senior Vice President Dave Gilbert said he knows the team at Hi-Fi Sales is a bunch of audio guys. But the company has broadened its wings, offering custom installation services in residential and commercial settings—everything from smart home automation and whole home audio, to telephone systems and security camera systems.
It’s been the successful marriage of the two businesses that has allowed Hi-Fi Sales to keep chugging along in a volatile retail market, Gilbert said. “Retail has been kept going by the resurgence in audio. People are discovering that there are better ways to listen to audio than the 99-cent earbuds that come with a phone or MP3 player,” he said. And the install business allows his team to “be that mentor to the person who needs the knowledge and experience, to touch, feel, and hear, or who is not comfortable with making a medium-to-more-expensive purchase without some guidance.”
As they look to get their showroom updated with the latest in consumer tech, Hi-Fi Sales has made a number of enhancements to its layout. They’ve reoriented their higher-end listening room in order to better show off product, they had a local contractor design a custom headphone cabinet for them and placed it in a private listening room with a relaxed environment, and they’re currently in the midst of remerchandising and reorienting the main showroom.
“We’re working with Lutron on an experience center that will be able to show people the benefits of lighting and shading technology,” Gilbert said. “It’s being designed and built specifically for our store.”
Other updates will include a revamped outdoor audio space inside the store, which is being designed by an outdoor landscaping company; the addition of motorized furniture to the lineup, things like cabinets that can hide TVs; and a dedicated streaming audio wall, which includes (of course) Sonos. “They really bring a lot of people in,” he said. “It just made sense to start offering them.”
Commitment to Service
As much as the showroom enhancements will help bring people into the Hi-Fi Sales store, it’s the company’s exceptional customer service that stands out and keeps clients coming back for more.
The Hi-Fi Sales customer experience extends beyond business-hour interactions. Over the last year, the retailer began holding events, opening their doors to the community and allowing customers to come in, hang out, meet with vendors, learn about product, and really just have a good time. They’ve held audio, video and control events, and a wildly successful one on SVS subs.
“We’ve become the place where people see that we’re doing these events and they don’t want to miss them,” Gilbert said. “They realize that Hi-Fi Sales is actually a cool place to hang out, experience other people, and talk to manufacturers. And the events have certainly helped our retail traffic and have given people a reason to come in.”
Additionally, Hi-Fi Sales has an almost completely revamped web presence that places a large emphasis on customer service. One of the more recent enhancements, added only a handful of months ago, is an after-hours customer support center and an on-call technician on weekends. They also worked with web marketing firm OneFirefly to add a live-chat agent to their site.
“It’s amazing how much more communication we receive from sales and service—even with our existing clients—through the chat rather than through phone or email,” Gilbert said.
Hi-Fi Sales also launched an informational portal where customers can access online tutorial videos for Sonos and Control4 products. That portion of the site will continue to expand, Gilbert explained. And, eventually, the company hopes to add a helpdesk where they’ll actually be able to walk customers through troubleshooting. It’s this high level of care that Gilbert believes separates Hi-Fi Sales from other retailers.
“What a lot of us are questioning, with the contraction of retail presence is, ‘What do we do to keep people coming in?’ And it goes back to customer service,” he said. “We’re going to keep focusing on how to fine-tune and continue excellent service. A lot of people are questioning how important to our business is a showroom, and a lot of people who never were in the business when showrooms were real big see no value. They can do all of their business in a conference room. We take the opposite stand. We see a big value in being able to show people things, to grow with them and have them come back to us and come to our events and become part of our family.”