On my first day in the Hi-Fi business, back in the glory days of the mid 1990s, I was taught how to do a great demonstration. My teacher was Steve Reichert, a legend in the AV business and to this day is one of the most entertaining and helpful demonstrators around. I learnt a huge amount from Steve about engaging and helping customers, and I’ll be forever thankful to him for tips and tricks I picked up.
Demos were the stocking trade of Hi-Fi stores in those days and, for upscale stereo Hi-Fi equipment, are still used to great effect today. Customers get a better understanding of whet they’ll achieve when they get products home and are more likely to get long term value from their purchase by making a better choice in the first place.
But in recent years it’s been more and more difficult to get a good demonstration of anything but the most esoteric of equipment. When Home Cinema came along, and even more so when Custom Install arrived, demonstrating the sonic benefits of better equipment became an almost impossible task. The setup time alone could easily eat up all of the profit for a retailer in the sale of a basic AV Receiver. Shamefully the industry moved toward selling its kit by the lowest common denominator of all; features. While customers got what they functionally desired the were often left underwhelmed with the sonic results…
So what if you wanted to buy a really cool cinema system? Maybe in a dedicate room with a really cool sound and video system and bespoke control system? Few Custom Install companies that deliver such systems have any kind of demo facilities, believing that paper-born explanations of their designs alone will suffice. For purely functional systems like lighting, security and HVAC they have a good point. But I’ll never be convinced that it’s the right approach for music or movies.
I’ve recently had the chance to visit a couple of superb new demo facilities, namely those of Artcoustic and Pulse Marketing (both coincidently in Essex). While the two show rooms are quite different in terms of style and presentation, they both offer dramatic experiences in high end cinema, showing just what can be achieved when a cinema room is carefully designed and executed around a customers particular needs.
But where both facilities scored highest for this listener was in the overall increase in desire for something similar in my house. Hats off to both companies for investing both time and a considerable amount of money in the pursuit of more excited customers. Incidentally, Geneses Technologies, another great distributor, and Customised, an up and coming CI installer in the Scottish Highlands, have also recently opened a superb new demo facilities. Both dedicated to best practice home entertainment engineering. I’m sure they are every bit as engaging and I’ll be doing my best to go see them too.
Being honest my enthusiasm for good kit had weaned a little in recent years. Perhaps I’ve been over exposed to terrific products in the past or perhaps its simply been eclipsed by my modest guitar addiction. Who knows? But now, having been wowed again by some truly fantastic demos, my Hi-Fi and Home Cinema is back with a vengeance and the result will, no doubt, be good news for my credit card company…