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The conundrum: brick and mortar stores and the changing market

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  • The conundrum: brick and mortar stores and the changing market

    This is written from the perspective of having a limited budget and no brick and mortar store within about 350 miles.

    So let's start with the limited budget part. Currently my system is at the point where any upgrades would be at or beyond my annual budget of say $2500 if stretched. Generally a brick and mortar store doesn't carry a lot of lower priced gear simply because even if the profit margin is the same, the dollar amount of profit isn't a lot. That is if a dealer even carries a lower priced product line.

    As to that 350 mile trip. One day to drive up and fight miserable heavy major metro traffic and an overnight stay to spend the next day perusing/auditioning equipment in an unfamiliar system. Stay overnight and fight the traffic back out of town. A three day trip. If I decide to audition in home, if the dealer can actually lend out his demo a week or two unit I still have to put it on my plastic as the dealer has to protect his investment. Regardless of my decision to purchase said equipment I still have to return the demo unit. If I do decide to purchase the equipment it has to be ordered from the distributer/factory meaning yet another trip. If I decide not to purchase, the dealer may have potentially lost a sale or sales to other customers while I have the demo unit.

    Don't get me wrong, the dealer is a great guy and has a very good shop. I truly enjoy the occasional trip. He is the guy that years ago spotted me some interconnects (I was a cables don't matter type at the time) to take home and try. Much to my chagrin and the detriment of my bank account it was apparent within the first minute they were clearly superior. Had to get a complete loom. Over the years I have purchased a turntable, record cleaning machine, preamplifier, cartridges and sundry small items from him.

    Would I prefer to support bricks and mortar? Of course. I prefer a personal relationship. But what to do when a suitable product is not remotely in my price range?

    This year I did something I have never done before, bought directly from the manufacturer. I had been looking for years for full frequency range efficient speakers I could afford and pretty much despaired of ever finding something in my price range. Based on reviews and personal recommendations I bit the bullet and ordered speakers direct from a manufacturer. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Amazingly it's probably the best purchase I've ever made.

    I think this reflects the growing dichotomy in the marketplace. While the prices of high end equipment have steadily increased due to devaluation of the dollar, inflation, a shrinking demographic of customers, increased manufacturing costs, and increased retail overhead, my income has not kept pace. This has had the effect of limiting my range of choices.

    So in regards to bricks and mortar I am getting to be like that stereotype of a kid with his nose pressed up against the glass of a candy display.

    Just a few of my thoughts on being a beer budget sort of guy.

  • #2
    Have you thought about attending an audio show? AXPONA 2016 (Chicago) was quite good, and the time invested did cost some money but will also save money (badly spent money) in the long run. Lots of equipment represented there, and way more than any brick/mortar shop will have on hand. I support my 120-mile-away shop as much as I can, and I try to keep a good relationship there, but there's no way he's going to have all the gear that I'd like to learn about.
    Lyra Kleos SL, Dynavector XX-2MKII, VPI JMW 10.5i, VPI Aries, VPI SDS, ModWright PH-150 Reference Phono, Sony HAP-Z1ES server, McIntosh MR80, McIntosh C2300, McIntosh MC352, Vandersteen 5A, PS Audio P10, Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar. Cables: Shunyata Cobra Ztron IC, PS Audio Statement AC, Synergistic Research AC, Harmonic Tech Silver Phono, Cable Research Labs Silver IC, Audioquest Gibraltar bi-wire.

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    • #3
      Goheelz - To be honest, most shows (based on what is written) don't have a lot to offer. While there is a lot of affordable digital equipment available at this time I am not interested in a digital system. That will have to wait until I have to replace my CD player although the replacement there would likely be the jack of all trades OPPO 105. Otherwise pretty much everything at a show that I would consider a step up is also a step up in price. I'm afraid I've hit the ceiling cost wise.

      I don't consider anything I've bought in many years to be a futile purchase. For the electronics all the reviews were considered, they were auditioned (not at home) and the decision to purchase took months. In one case the manufacturer closed its doors before I arrived at a decision. The speakers are the only major purchase not made through a dealer because they are not available through retail channels. Pulling the trigger on those caused a little shortness of breath.

      Those folks who have been over consider my system over the top, not audiophiles or anything resembling that label. I consider my system modest at most. I guess extravagance is in the eye of the beholder.

      That said I miss the late 60's and early 70's where every appliance store (including Sears) carried equipment. Seemed like every moderately sized town had a stereo store. LPs where everywhere. But things change.

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      • #4
        Rust Only you can sort out your budget to make the right call about finances, but I'd reiterate that one can learn from visiting a show like AXPONA (I mention that show because it was fairly convenient for me to attend this year). I'm not especially interested in digital either, but there was a substantial variety of analog gear (vinyl, R2R tape even!) available for audition, and not all of it in the upper price ranges. It costs little to visit and listen and ponder one's options. Your ears have probably earned a better listening experience than anything Sears ever offered, don't you think?

        good luck!
        Lyra Kleos SL, Dynavector XX-2MKII, VPI JMW 10.5i, VPI Aries, VPI SDS, ModWright PH-150 Reference Phono, Sony HAP-Z1ES server, McIntosh MR80, McIntosh C2300, McIntosh MC352, Vandersteen 5A, PS Audio P10, Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar. Cables: Shunyata Cobra Ztron IC, PS Audio Statement AC, Synergistic Research AC, Harmonic Tech Silver Phono, Cable Research Labs Silver IC, Audioquest Gibraltar bi-wire.

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        • #5
          Goheelz - I've been wanting to make another show, since it's been quite a few years since I've made it to one. I seem to live in the one part of the country which is farthest from any show which means taking a week or so to visit. Pondering the thought.

          The Rocky Mountain show would seem to be the most attractive. I have to wonder how much time I would actually spend at the show vice indulging in certain herbals.

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