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.
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 replying on lack of competition, which must be for the good. In my opinion the like of Bill Hutchinson and Julian Richer in their own very different ways are 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 griping and complaining and acting as new age Luddites.