Beginning of the Age of Audio Specialty Stores

I joined this company in 1967 at the age of 23 and became chief editor of Rajio terebi sangyo (Radio and TV Industry), the predecessor of this magazine. In about 1972 our then president, Masatsugu Iwama, declared that we were going to issue Audio senka (Audio Special Course). “Who is going to read it?” I asked. “Audio specialty stores,” he answered. “If you have decided who the readers will be,” I said audaciously, “then it will be a success.”

In our preparations for the launch of Audio senka, first of all I visited Tereon President Shichinojo Suzuki. I began collecting information on the question of what a specialty store is, and I also brought together the distinguished presidents of leading stores for a roundtable discussion on the management of audio specialty stores. That meeting was attended by Tereon President Suzuki, Dynamic Audio President Toshiro Ogiwara, Audio Union President Shoichi Hirohata, Yokohama Sound President Shinjiro Higuchi, and Soundace President Saito. President Iwama served as the chair, and I participated as the chief editor. A related article later appeared in Audio senka.

After taking part in that landmark meeting, I firmly believed that the age of audio specialty stores was coming. I began to visit leading stores in the provinces and started a series of articles on the audio market and audio specialty stores in the regions. I traveled to just about every prefecture in the country, from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south.

I believed that retail stores depended on the trust of the community. If a store pursued selfish profiteering, it would be rejected by the community and lose out to other stores that were managing themselves decently. And the aim of an audio specialty store was to foster the local community’s music culture. That, I believed, was how an audio specialty store would win the trust of the community. I considered the store to be a stage for customers and its products to be the main actors.

When I visited a region, first of all I went to the prefectural or municipal government office to get basic statistics about the region. From household account surveys I would investigate the amount of money spent every year on durables and obtain data on the region’s audio market by estimating the amount of money invested in audio and dividing that figure by the number of households and population. In those dawning times I think the per capita amount of investment was around 1,800 yen. Although I calculated the figures myself, I also held discussions with experts so as to come up with reliable amounts.

Then I visited local stores, beginning with those in the prefectural capital, and wrote articles on the vitality of the stores in the context of market scale. Driven by youthful enthusiasm, I used to write down my thoughts quite frankly, and frequently I received phone calls from protesting stores. Once I visited a well-established store in a certain prefectural capital. To my eyes, the store’s treatment of customers and its product display were not very good. Although the store insisted that it had a 50%–60% share of the local market, by my calculation its share was only 30%. I looked around the district and indeed found another store that had opened just a couple of weeks earlier. This new store was tidy, displayed an ample product lineup, and also had a large car park. When I spoke with the owner, he emphasized the importance of winning the trust of the local community.

After I wrote an article about the arrogant attitude of the old store and the thinking of the new one, the old store contacted me to complain. But when I politely explained the reason, the owner understood and went on to build a truly marvelous store. We still keep in contact with each other.

These research activities also received immense support from makers, and our sales increased several times over the initial level. Companies utilized marketing for the opening of stores and product development for the prosperity of stores and made active use of our magazine pages. From around the early 1980s they began to practice the “tomorrow’s today” way of thinking. The age of the audio specialty store had arrived.

Times have changed, and the market has transformed significantly, but nevertheless we are again in an age in which we should be conveying the excitement of audio and home theater to customers. Audio specialty stores today are required to enter a new phase of activity.