How could a war in Eastern Europe possibly affect an Audio Visual store in Carlton, Australia?

Oddly enough we felt the consequences almost immediately.

War in any form is bad for business.

Whereas we often bemoan the distraction effect of football and cricket on our retail audience, the true sport of humankind is war, as evidenced by its viewing audience ratings. Walking up past the lovely open air tables of the Lygon St restaurants in the past month, a casual listener will eavesdrop that half the conversations are littered with references to Ukraine and Russia and associated topics.

The fear and tension is palpable even here in the comfortable Carlton Autumn.

In the Falklands war in the UK in 1982, the Gulf war of 1991, and Sept 11th 2001, the distraction effect on this retail scene was equally evident. The screen technologies of the day were alight with the imagery of collapsing buildings and we clustered round them agape.

The Ukrainian invasion seems to have touched a particular nerve though. Perhaps it is that sensitivity to a conflict that comes when a warmonger, to whom no rule of law applies, talks ominously of using Dr Strangelove style nuclear weapons in the leadup to his conventional weapon misadventure. 

I had really hoped that our own children were freed of the incumbency of the Cold War that I personally grew up under the yoke of as an end run baby boomer. The 21st Century has suddenly become a darker time.

It's not just the emotional nerves this conflict is touching. Petrol prices have never been higher and there lies beneath the fear of rising interest rates being imposed on consumers who are already mortgaged to the very hilt to support the monstrously inflated cost of housing. It is twenty times more expensive to buy a house in Melbourne now than in the early eighties. We certainly have not had a concurrent rise in wages in Middle Australia, although that may well be the case for the one percenters in the upper fiscal pyramid of earnings.

On a shop floor level we are really feeling supply issues. The new European war is compounding pre-existing logistical chain issues that started with a fire in the AKM chip factory in Japan in October 2020. Then we had the pandemic and lockdowns in industrial centres in China and Europe, then we had the Ever Given container vessel that blocked the Suez canal for a week.

In the global economy everything is connected. The dark forces of nationalism that dictators use to devide and rule simply make everything more expensive and less available. I very much doubt that good High Fidelity gear and Audio Visual kit is generally available in North Korea. 

There have been times in the post wall Russian economy that Moscow based Hi Fi dealers and distributors have been some of the best performers in the world for brands like Jamo and Monitor Audio. Not any more. Those business people such as the owners of "" who have 24 shops across Russia are going to have to find an alternative living as all the European and US brands they deal with are embargoed for the duration.

This is a two way street though. Our favourite hand made US brand of Valve kit Audio Research uses exclusively Sovtek valves. These are considered by far the best Vacuum Tubes available and and although American owned are made in Saratov in Russia. 

Made famous by the Mig 25 that defected to Japan in 1976 and was at first laughed at by the US techs when they they discovered the radar used thermionic valves rather than solid state, they they found it was immune to western jamming and to nuclear weapon electromagnetic pulse that would fry transistor based electronics. Russian produced valves are top of the pile for quality low noise and consistency and longevity.

Audio Research tells us they have ten thousand sets of valves to be going on with so supply wont be immediately interrupted. However this looks like a long war. Not only that each day turns over another page of atrocity in the occupied area of Ukraine that seems to deny the probability of future commercial relations at all with the Russian state.

Another brand that we have been dealing with very happily in the ultra competitive Head Fi sector is the Romanian headphone product Meze.

Meze make headphones from $400 to $6000 that are absolutely gorgeous, and they use parts that are made in neighbouring Ukraine ... I wonder how much stock the distributor has?

On a practical local business level with a war that includes one of the worlds major fuel exporters our transport costs are rising fast as petrol goes past the $2 per litre level. As well as that the cost of shipping has increased by a factor of five plus since 2020. Many of the ships that move our products are apparently Russian crewed ...

Overall we are looking at a substantial rise in prices for most of our imported product that is now being further exacerbated by the economic mayhem of the war, most of our brands have released new April fools day pricelists that are alarming. Ten to fifteen per cent is typical. 

I was repricing some of our floor display to the new April 1st price lists and it was the old tickets under the holders that reminded just how much some of our kit has gone up since the good old days of 2019. 

Some distributors prices have now risen by over thirty percent in this period.

The other side of this coin of depression for a business such as ours though is that we essentially sell the joy of music. When the news is really bad and you aren't going to travel overseas for holiday, it does seem that we may be attracting some of that discretionary expenditure income that goes towards making people feel good when times are bad.

So the best thing we can recommend unsurprisingly is for people to not watch the news but get some great speakers and listen to music. There is a reality somewhere where John Lennon became World President in the year 2000 and we all lived happily ever after.

Music does sooth the savage beast. However I have a suspicion that the likes of Putin and Jong-Un listen to that type of music where large numbers of uniformed men march in unison. Bastards.