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Before Re-Sauce Part 3 – BBG Home Cinema & Nakamichi

By Gordon Dutch

By the mid 90’s I became a little concerned about the long term future of the ‘in-car’ market. I noticed that more and more cars were starting to come with built in CD players and all sorts of other integrated electronics, such as navigation with integrated steering controls. I could see that this change in approach from the car manufacturers was going to greatly affect our in-car business and so I looked to diversify into home audio. Around this time, I had employed a sales director for the in-car business called Chris Bennett. Chris was a great guy and together we assembled a cracking UK sales team in Jon, Graham and Andy and this allowed me to concentrate on getting our new home audio division up and running. Whenever I have diversified, I normally head up the new sales area myself initially. Firstly this means you get to learn all about the strength and weaknesses of not only your own product, but those of your competitors. It also means that you can help your eventual sales team overcome any barriers to entry, by getting feedback directly yourself from the customers not through the funnel of an employee. To me nothing is better than having your target/customer telling you exactly what they need and then you go and deliver it… 

 

Our first exclusive home audio signing was Polk Audio, a leading brand of US home cinema and audio speakers that had a fantastic range of sub/sat speakers. This was at the very beginning of the home cinema boom and as the UK had fairly small living rooms in comparison to other countries, using sub/sat was a great way of getting a great big sound into a small room without the size of the speakers dominating the room. In fact, this was very similar to what we had been doing in car audio for the past 7 years… Polk got great reviews in the UK and Global Hifi Press and so we looked to expand our ranges and we then received another ‘lucky break’ when we signed an exclusive contract with a brand called Nakamichi. Nakamichi came to us initially just to do their car audio range. However, I convinced them to also allow us to be their exclusive home audio distributor as well, which was quite a coo at the time and this brand really gave us the launch pad we needed to expand this new division.

 

Some of you may know, that Nakamichi were a big name back in the 70’s with their amazingly high quality tape recorders and during the 1990’s they made a comeback with a whole new range of not only CD and home cinema products in the standard black box type finish, but they but also released a stunning range of ‘designer’ hang on the wall hifi, which looked and sounded fantastic. Recognising the success that brands like Bang & Olufson had, I set about focussing on getting this designer range called ‘SoundSpace’ out to key retailers, not just quality Hifi retailers, but into the department stores and furniture stores as well.

 

At the time, most if not all Hifi was sold either off a shelf or a hifi rack, whereas the key USP to Nakamichi SoundSpace was that it was slimline and hung on the wall. It looked amazing in brushed aluminium and with some fetching multi-coloured lighting . It was full of innovative new features, like multi stacking CD’s, and so we decided to make a massive investment in display stands that showed the product off as it should be, hung on the wall. We then managed to get these ‘walls’ installed into virtually every major department store in the UK. Later on we even had our own dedicated area in most of these stores and in Selfridges London store, we actually had our own showroom with our own Nakamichi sales staff…

 

This strategy proved to be a great approach, as when couples went shopping, one might spend time in the home furnishings area, whilst the other sneaked off to look at the widescreen TV’s and Hifi’s. When they eventually met up, both were drawn to the stylish audio products Nakamichi had, which not only looked great but sounded great and so sales were very impressive. Again, we carefully channel managed the higher end quality products and so they were only available through the Independent Hifi retailers who could support their installation, which those retailers loved. SoundSpace became a phenomenon. What Hifi even created a new category for Style Systems that year, recognising the importance that style audio was having on the market and the Nakamichi SoundSpace 8 won it… Our Gfk figures showed the impact we were having on the industry… At that point Nakamichi was flying high, heavily featured in all the key Home Audio press, the new ‘tech’ titles like T3 and Stuff that were coming through and also home, lifestyle and even fashion magazines. We even made it to the shortlist of GQ Product of the Year as I re-call. I personally handled most if not all of the Nakamichi Press & PR.. In fact by doing that, I had almost by default become a pretty handy and experienced PR, without even knowing it 😊

 

I hope you have enjoyed this part 3 of my personal business journey. Picture shown of a slightly younger me with one of our Nakamichi walls and also Chris Bennett and Jon Griggs collecting a JL Audio award on our behalf. As anyone who visited our facilities would have seen, we won quite a lot. Watch out next week for part 4 about further diversification and not being too reliant on any one supplier. Another lesson hard learned for not only BBG, but many other businesses and don’t forget if you need any assistance with your business, don’t hesitate to contact us here hello@re-sauce.net

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Here’s what our Industry Colleagues say about us...

Peerless-AV would like to pay tribute to the incredible work Gordon and his team have done since 2009. It’s sales and brand awareness since we launched Peerless-AV EMEA in 2009 has been massive. Gordon’s strategic leadership and incredible work ethic, along with the dynamic leadership of a best-in-class team, which he assembled, has led Peerless-AV to the forefront of the AV businesses.

John Potts

Global President & CEO of Peerless-AV

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