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Pete Shields's picture
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Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?
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After a bout of serious man flu and prolonged late night listening with my old Sennheiser HD570's I decided that my late Christmas present from the wife would be a new set of cans.


I'm a big fan of Sennheiser so was looking at the 600's or 650's.


I scoured the net and the best prices seemed to be £199 and £249 respectively, from a reputable music (not hifi) dealer from Jersey that I have used many times in the past for DVD's.


Off to Manchester I went with wedge in hand, only to find from all of the dealers (these guys are part of hifi chains and I have used them extensively in the past) that they didn't really like to keep any phones at this price band in stock as they could not compete at all with internet boys. I quoted the internet price for the 600's and was shown that they could only buy them in at this price...


The general view from the shops was that most people are now internet savvy. They will demo a pair of cans if in stock, then buy them off the net. Any higher ppriced phones gather dust on their shelves and there does not tend to be a big selection if stocked at all.


People are willing to take the chance on headphones (that have probably had a WHF review anyway) and buying without a demo. I'll be doing the same.


The manufacturers - particularly sennheiser need to address this. I looked to buy last summer, but was put off by the large price hike due to the exchange rate. With a recession still on, these guys should be looking to reduce their prices. Notice that now pound has improved, the prices haven't dropped again. Manufacturers need to support their dealers. I get the impression particularly with Sennheiser that they are now more interested in the bulk selling of sub £20 headphones to the ipod generation.


Shame really. Good news is I ended up making an impulse purchase of a Sonos S5 for the kitchen and then signed up to Napster. Music now fills the house and the wife loves it too. So much more accessible (but obviously not as good as) than the ZP90 connected to my hifi. Only problem is the kids love to change the tracks from their ipod touches whilst not in the room...... 


 

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

last time i went looking i found stores hardly stocked any but all pretty much said they could order me in what i wanted so really was a case as might as well order online and have delivered to home than go back to shops or wait for them to be shipped on to me

Anonymous
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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

I understand what you are saying.  I have always preferred to buy from a Hi-Fi dealer and don't mind paying a little extra for their demo facilities and vastly superior knowledge (compared to many chains).  However, when wanting to upgrade the supplied headphones on my iPod touch I knew the pair for me would be the highly recommended Sennheiser CX300 II.  Like you, I set off with a fistful of fivers but found I couldn't find these for less than £40.  A certain .com site had them for £15!   You don't need to spend too long working out where my money went.

However, this is my question, how can they do them so cheaply?  I understand shops pay staff, retail space etc. etc. - all the usual arguments but this is a massive difference.  Oh, and don't say that HMV haven't got any buying power either?

As for people who put their prices up when the exchange rate goes up, but not down, they should be warned that their customers are not as stupid as they think. 

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

One of the problems is that the 'music dealer' from Jersey are getting some nice deals (I can only assume based on quantity) from a certain headphone manufacturer. This does make it awkward for independent retailers to compete - the only way would be to buy in the same quantities, which isn't an option for many. If this wasn't a problem we'd have the whole range in store for people to audition. It's not that we don't have a market for that level of headphone - we sell a lot of Denon and Grado at that price point, and if there weren't silly prices all over the net we'd sell more Sennheiser too.


We've mentioned the problem to Sennheiser, but nothing much has been done for the past few years. Dealers do need the support of the manufacturer, Without it, they may as well not keep the brand in store.


When manufacturers put their prices up last year, I'm sure they didn't want to, it's the last thing they needed. I suspect that with the pound improving, albeit marginally, manufacturers are probably going to have claw a bit more money back to cover what they would've made over the past year - some manufacturers had higher price rises than others, and I suspect some didn't raise them as much as they shoud've done.


This is not only something that affects headphones, but some brand's electronics too.....


 

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

Anonymous
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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

Thanks David for your comments.  I would also like to point out to many though that there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of fake headphones flying around at the moment, so be careful as the good deal might not be all that good after all.

  

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?
groberton: I understand what you are saying.  I have always preferred to buy from a Hi-Fi dealer and don't mind paying a little extra for their demo facilities and vastly superior knowledge (compared to many chains).  However, when wanting to upgrade the supplied headphones on my iPod touch I knew the pair for me would be the highly recommended Sennheiser CX300 II.  Like you, I set off with a fistful of fivers but found I couldn't find these for less than £40.  A certain .com site had them for £15!   You don't need to spend too long working out where my money went.

However, this is my question, how can they do them so cheaply?  I understand shops pay staff, retail space etc. etc. - all the usual arguments but this is a massive difference.  


I like your thinking groberton Big Smile


The CX300's have been a particular example. Having said that. there were two versions - the Mark II's and the Eco model. The Eco was basically a cheap version, but the Mark II's were bought in (more than likely) silly quantities - what manufacturer is going to say no when you're waving a big fat cheque in front of them? Normal stores might be in 10's, maybe 100's if they sell a few over the net. But these quantities are small fry compared to the online 'music' retailer.


Sennheiser are bring out a few ranges of headphones that are destined only for specialist retailers, so big online discount stores won't see them, doesn't matter how many they want to order.....


 

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?
groberton: Thanks David for your comments.  I would also like to point out to many though that there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of fake headphones flying around at the moment, so be careful as the good deal might not be all that good after all.  


That is true, and people should be wary of deals that really are too good to be true. I've read a few reports by people who have purchased them, and apparently they sound awful. The other downside is that because some online stores allow third party selling, it's beyond the realms of possibility, in fact, quite likely, that these can find there way to this particular selling channel.


BTW, like the avatar - brings back some memories!!


 

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

As I understood it, the Eco version was the same headphone but with eco-friendly packaging that had no glue or tape and was 100% recyclable.  I would like to know if the eco version is different though as this is what is being sold by a certain online retailer.

I too have heard of many people buying fakes off through third-party suppliers via a very large online retailer.  The Fake headphone site (www.fakeheadphones.com) shows photos of what to look out for and is very informative.

I would like to ask you a question, David, do you demo in-ear phones?  I wonder if people are happy to try something that someone else has shoved in their ear?  Just curious.

I love my avatar - I remember when it was printed on all the inner sleeves of LPs.  Of course, I never made tapes!

Gary 

 

 

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

As a kid I couldn't afford vinyl, so I had many tapes! Still got them somewhere, I'm a bit of a hoarder....


With in ear headphones, most people are happy to buy without a demo as they understand the reasons that it can't be offered. Usually we're asked what we think of the differences between them, which is just as hard because we've never heard them either! I use a pair of CX300's myself which I find great (even at trade price I paid more than the internet prices too!!) - not tried the Denon ones but I'm tempted to try a more expensive set from them.


 

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

In Glasgow you can audition quite a wide range of headphone with the Apple Store, John Lewis (when it works) and PC World all having listening stations with various cans from ipods. I was disappointed when I tried one of the actual dealers and was told that their range of four £100ish headphones was all they would stock. I could order say Grado SR325s from them, but it would be to buy and they would not get them in to audition. The last time I walked by the shop they have one pair of ATs and three empty dusty heads for a headphone display. There is no where in Scotland (unless corrected!) to try AKGs, though you can get the cheapest in the range from Richer Sounds. EDIT - Rubadub in Howard St, Glasgow do a wide range of AKG headphones and various other makes as well.

Higher end headphones do seem to very difficult to audition.

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

It's only taken six months but play.com have taken my hard earned and will be dispatching my £219 Sennheiser HD650's today.


They are going to be a father's day present from the bin lids, but I'm going to struggle not to try them and "burn them in" as soon as they arrive, which should be Monday at the latest.


That and the world cup in the same week..excitement is an understatement. I will post when up and running...  

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?
Pete Shields's picture
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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

Aghhhhhhh!!!!!


In packing, can't cancel order!!!!!!


Good news is they've only charged me £179.99.........


I'll need to check my statement when it coems through though just in case


thanks Play.com!!!!!!!! 

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

and a big thanks to matengawhat for finding it for me

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

In John Lewises today and the listening post was working and they had B&W P5s, Denon AH D1001, Bose Around Ear, Bose On Ear, some Sonys, JVC and another make I can't remember available for listening.

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Re: Can retailers afford to stock headphones anymore?

I think I might just buy a pair of those B&W P5s and look at them.

I will get another pair of SR60i headphones to actually use and just look at the P5s.


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