High-Frequency Headphone Sales
Why retailers are taking the category more seriouslyFebruary 4, 2011 By Nancy Klosek
The groundswell in consumer interest for headphones has spurred high-end, high-touch audio retailers to take a fresh approach to displaying and merchandising the product. During the last year, headphones have become increasingly important as a lead-in to conversations with clients about achieving better sound from their portable players. And in a skilled sales environment, that engaged customer can easily turn into a high-margin component or loudspeaker sale.
For Definitive, an A/V specialty retailer and custom installer with three stores in the Seattle area, the recent spike in headphone sales has been "a kind of wakeup call," said Craig Abplanalp, vice president.
"We'd been selling headphones since our company began, but just over the last couple of years, we noticed there was a big segment of customers for us to reach who would benefit immediately from having a higher-quality headphone experience," he said. "And there are more reasons than ever to want to own a good headphone."
These include sound quality and comfort. Definitive is able to maintain headphone margins, just as with loudspeakers. But it's more than margins that motivate the company to get more proactive in headphone merchandising.
"There are no new audiophiles entering our community any more," Abplanalp said. "For young people experiencing music, the art of building a stereo has lost its cachet. So selling headphones is a very important part of introducing music lovers to different performance levels. If we can get our foot in the door with someone just starting their appreciation for music with their computer or iPod and show them a higher level of experience, we feel that as that person matures, it might carry forward. It creates another opportunity for us to meet a new customer."
Definitive has typically displayed headphones on a wall and is now designing dedicated headphone areas in its showrooms where they can easily be hooked up to higher-performance amplifiers.
"This will allow us to make a huge improvement in presentation of their sound quality," he said. "We can cover the category in more depth and not just stop at selling the headphone but also other products that maximize the experience."
These new areas will be dedicated, rather than isolated, and situated in a comfortable spot in the showrooms. Customers feel a little bit weird about being dragged into a room just to listen to a pair of headphones, Abplanalp said. "Our primary interest is in attracting new customers, and that's of greater value even than the revenue generated from headphone sales," he said.