There has always been a war … its part of the competitive process. In this specialist retail sector it is not the simple factors of price vs demand that economic theorists bandy about, everything gets very quantum when one is dealing with fringe preferences of high research consumers on the retail front line.

It is not just the product and price that make a difference to success or failure. A good demonstration of an unknown brand can sway a confident consumer into a purchase without prior acquaintance. There have been times in our micro market place when a particular brand or item has had such an unassailable position that if you as a specialist retailer did not have the right piece of kit on hand then you were simply going to lose the client to one who did.

Some examples of my own experience: When the original NAD 3020 Amplifier came out it was such a demand item that people were literally waiting the shop door in Cambridge every morning to buy them. The original 3020 was a quarter of the price of some equivalent amplifiers and made decent hi fi accessible to a new generation of consumers who would otherwise have been trapped in music centres.

When Carlton Audio Visual opened in 1991 it was at the beginning of surround sound and there was really only one brand of surround sound that was on people’s lips being Yamaha … unfortunately we didn’t sell it …

However Denon suddenly appeared with a range of surround receivers of exceptional quality that actually allowed us to prise open a new group of consumers and discover a strength of trading in quality rather than following the herd. The Denon AVR2000 was demonstrably and immediately superior in music quality, features, and decoding ability to its opposition product, a differentiation that the Denon Theatre Receivers have retained ever since.

The one brand that has been the most asked for … that we don’t sell … is Bose. Although their ship has now sailed there was a time when half the people coming into the store would ask after this product. This was not anything to do with it being good quality audio, but rather the hideously effective cheap trick advertising campaign and push through retail distribution that they exercised in the local market.

For us it became a case of if the prospective client would give us thirty seconds then they would give us five minutes. If they would give us five minutes then they would give us half an hour and if they would give us half an hour then they would normally give us their custom.

That being said there was always a particular type of who would immediately turn and leave the store with their nose held high when we responded in the negative to their initial brand inquiry. They were so inculcated with the brand marketing that a shop that didn’t sell Bose clearly in their mind was a locale of thieving deviants.

I always endeavored to treat those people with equanimity and managed to resist the inner reptile that wanted to hurl epithetic dung after them … I was conscious that the reality was that this company and its methodology were actually a threat to my business model and livelihood and needed to be fought vigorously and carefully at every level. They possessed a culture hidden from the consumer that was anti quality and anti choice.

When consumers are repeatedly told that something that is poor quality is actually good and that message is reinforced by a collusive dealer network that itself became dependent on feeding the machine, an outsider business to that scheme becomes anathema and radicalised in the corridors of local consumer electronic discourse. In the late nineties and early 2000s at dealer gatherings I would feel like a Green Peace activist attending a Koch brothers sponsored climate change denial meeting.

I suspect that it was the freedom of information of the internet and the forum phenomenon in places such as Whirlpool and newsgroups that may have broken the thrall. When diverse opinions and experiences of actual users were published freely along with general access to product reviews being made available that had hitherto only been read by a few in esoteric foreign magazines, then the emperor’s clothes started to fade.

After Bose there was the iPod era. Every person who came in through the door was clutching their white device and asking for something to play it back through. The problem was that after you plug an iPod into an amp and speakers everything sounds pretty much … like an iPod. For a determined Apple person that meant that the whole Hi Fi thing was wrong and that Apple were proven to be the best invention ever. Once again we would offer oppositional council and encourage them to try the same piece of music on a CD, or even an LP, to hear what it really sounded like. The Apple marketing model was much broader based than Bose and as such a less specific threat to our specialist enterprise but brilliant and effective with its appeal to fashion, technology, beauty, and youth, all at once.

At the end of the iPhone 4 we found ourselves with a large inventory of pre lightning connector audio replay devices that became suddenly obsolete and the object of no consumer interest whatsoever. Most of this stock still is hiding in the subspace of our nooks and crannies in our various buildings as having no resellable value and therefore best used for structural purposes. One deeply resents the value of our time they represented in the gradual building of retained profits in our business that were destined for toilet training support at the whim of Apples designers.

These days it seems the worm has now turned fully and we are back to selling much the same type of kit as I was dealing with in 1978. No one asks for Bose or brings their iPods in. Rather they are clutching their initial cluster of vinyl LPs and are once again looking for a turntable amp and speakers. The Vinyl LP has forced its way up through the morass of brand marketing and is once again in our world the acknowledged king of sound quality. Instead of a Tuner or Cassette deck this starter system has some type of digital streamer attached to it that will play all things from the internet, their local network, and Bluetooth from their mobile device. I am even selling 21st Century NAD 3020 Amplifier amplifiers again.