Exclusive by Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: After reading yesterday’s story about specialist retailing, in which Frank Di Bartolo claimed that consumer milk specialists for information before shopping in the mass market stores, Steve Neil, the proprietor of Eastwood HiFi, contacted us to give his view on the industry.

Neil is a respected figure in the specialist audio visual industry, and he believes independents should take more responsibility for their business, rather than looking for someone to blame.

“As proprietor of Eastwood HiFi, a specialist HiFi store that has operated out of the same premises for the last 30 years, I can say that it’s [Frank’s concerns] a marketing issue that must be addressed by the specialists themselves.

“Frank may be doing it tough, or he wouldn’t be complaining about Harveys, but we have just had the best three month period in our history. In fact our sales are up 83% over the last 12 months.”

Neil attributes this success to his evolving business model. Knowing that consumers prepared to spend over $1,000 on a purchase will research it before entering the store, he set out to brand his store as a place of expertise, rather than a place of unbeatable deals on price.

“We grew in this period by changing our business model to interact with the consumers via our web site. “

The feedback Neil gets from customers is interesting. He says often a customer will come to him because the service at the bigger groups wasn’t good enough. The trick then is keeping them in the store once the purchasing decision has been made.

“Quite often the consumer will visit Harveys or The Good Guys and realise that the technical expertise offered isn’t quite what they need, consequently getting on the net and finding a website such as ours.

“We then offer an audio or video solution which may sit better with that consumer who may well reward our efforts by purchasing from us, even if our prices are slightly above those of the box movers.”

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