Indies slam Samsung and Sonos for selling direct to consumers

Independent dealers who stock Samsung and Sonos have hit out at the brands for selling some of their latest products direct to consumers.

Korean electronics giant Samsung is offering customers who visit its website – www.samsung.com/uk – the chance to pre-order its new premium QLED UHD TVs (pictured) by simply entering their credit card or PayPal details, or spread the cost by paying in monthly instalments.

Samsung is also giving consumers the opportunity to get its new TVs installed and wall-mounted by a third party – OrderWork, based in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

Costs for basic installation with a TV stand start at £50, then move up to £125 for a standard wall-mount option – the same price as the service offered by Currys – and £270 for an advanced wall-mounting with concealed cabling.

One independent Samsung dealer, who was contacted by ERT and wished to remain anonymous, said: “I think it is an absolute farce how Samsung is selling direct to consumers.

“By no means am I naive enough to expect them to run their decisions past us before they are made, however we are just constantly led on a merry dance of being important to them and the best places for their new technology to be showcased.

Sonos Playbase
Sonos Playbase

“We all know that they blow smoke, but it has just got to a saturation point now, where they are openly looking to take business away from those that have committed to opening and running shops, giving their products space, and investing in staff knowing about their products. It is utterly contemptuous.

“How does it make me feel as a Samsung dealer? Undervalued, ignored and worthless.”

The retailer added: “With a TV, the ability to install properly has led people to showrooms to get that knowledge and expertise, as well as us make some money out of the installation.”

Samsung was unavailable for comment.

American audio brand Sonos has also decided to sell its latest product – the Playbase, a powerful wireless speaker that sits discreetly under the TV and retails for £699 – directly to consumers.

Ahead of the Playbase, which is available to purchase on April 4, existing Sonos customers were targeted by email and given the chance to pre-order one from Sonos.com. There was also the offer of returning the product within 100 days if the consumer wasn’t satisfied with it and getting a full refund. This option is not available to customers who buy the Playbase in-store.

Sonos customers were contacted before the brand had informed several of its retailers that the Playbase was going to be launched.

A Sonos dealer whom ERT spoke to – and who also wished to remain anonymous – shared with us the contents of an email he had sent to his Sonos sales rep to complain about the move.

He told us that Sonos accounts for a major part of his business – it’s his second best-selling brand.

An extract from the email read: “Please pass on to senior management my disgust that Sonos see fit to contact my customers and offer them the chance to pre-order the new Playbase “before they hit the shelves” in our stores.

“I have no issue with Sonos contacting our customers to advise them of new kit, but they should in no way be trying to steal an early march on the market and bypassing the very people/businesses that have been instrumental in the growth of the Sonos business in the UK.

“As you know we are tremendous advocates of Sonos and it is an important part of our business, but on this occasion Sonos is letting us down.”

Paul Mead, managing director of Bedford retailer Michael R Peters, said: “A manufacturer is a manufacturer and a retailer is a retailer, right? Wrong! It seems like the manufacturers want to be retailers as well.

“I learned about the Sonos Playbase, through a customer walking in-store and telling me about it! He had received an email directly from Sonos asking if he would like to pre-order one from them, with a 100 days returns policy. This customer would not have even heard about Sonos if we hadn’t sold it to him in the first place.”

Added Mr Mead: “Come on Sonos – sort out your communications with your “valued dealer partners” and make sure we know about new products before the customers tell us. And don’t forget that a speaker is something you can’t listen too on the internet – you really need to experience it in a store.”

ERT contacted Sonos to ask why it had bypassed its independent dealer network to sell direct to consumers.

A Sonos spokesman told ERT: “We are always looking to enhance the Sonos owner experience and improve on our customer service.

“For the launch of Sonos Playbase, we opened an exclusive window for owner pre-orders on Sonos.com. Alongside this, we are working in close collaboration with all of our retail partners to ensure the business is fully prepared for a high-impact launch on April 4.”