Interview by Patrick Avenell

As Yamaha prepares to launch its new range at IFA in Germany, we spoke to Australian product manager Justin d’Offay about the AV market, the role of specialist dealers, Apple’s influence and much more.

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How is the specialist AV market going?

We are finding that they are getting really good results from our Aventage range and we’ve had some good growth through our specialist network.

For any retailer to stay doing what they are doing, they always need to adapt and adjust their company or business to suit the market as it develops. We’ve seen a few mass market stores drop from the market in recent times and I’m sure some specialists will do the same, but at the same time, we will see some dealers really thrive in the market.

How has Yamaha adjusted its business to suit the market?

We’re trying to adjust the products that we have coming through to make sure we have up-to-date technology. We’re seeing a real trend towards multizone and the home entertainment hub. We are incorporating the growth areas, such as wireless technologies and smartphones, and making sure our products work well with those and we’re showing that to customers. We’re also introducing new categories to make sure that as a business we’re supporting a number of different areas.

Is it important to have a wide range of products, suitable for the specialists and the mass merchants?

To an extent it is. Yamaha is the biggest music company in the world: we start with instruments and work all the way up to our home theatre gear. One of the benefits of that is you’re talking to different customers —they can become comfortable with your brand.

It took us a while to get an iPod dock in at that price point because it had to live up to the Yamaha brand and provide Yamaha sound. The benefit of having it there now is we have a reliable product that sounds good — much better than all other products at that price point —so we have more people using our products and becoming comfortable with our products; growing into loyal Yamaha customers.

What’s been the feedback from your specialist dealers?

Some months are better than others. There’s been slow months and then other months where they’re seeing some real growth. Infomark is reporting a really good couple of months over June and July, so hopefully that continues into Christmas.

Is it dangerous to release new docks for Apple products when there is speculation the 30-pin connector will be changed?

I wouldn’t say dangerous. Over the next 6-12 months we’re going to still have customers with iPhone 4Ses iPhone 4s, if previous examples are anything to go by. Although there might be a change, the fact is there will still be customers in that market.

In saying that, we’ve got products like the Bluetooth versions coming out that will support any new technology that comes with the next iPhone, and now we’re covering off other branded products that might be in the market, such as the ability to connect wirelessly to Android and other smartphones.

Is Yamaha hoping for a new configuration to push people back into the market?

Yes and no. Apple has done a really good job creating a market, what happens from there? We don’t know. The move to Bluetooth works really well for us because that wireless technology is available in our home theatre range, so introducing that to consumers — that control and convenience — will hopefully bring them into the AV receiver range.

Was Yamaha exposed to the Retravision Southern and/or WOW Sight and Sound collapses?

No, we never dealt with WOW and we only with Retravision to a small extent in previous years, luckily. It’s sad to see companies dropping out of the market: the audio industry needs all the distribution we can get, and all the exposure. We want to grow the market, seeing people drop out is not a positive thing.