‘The high street will have to go more experiential to survive’: Linn MD

The future of the high street is experiential, according to the managing director of high-end UK audio company Linn Products.

Speaking to ERT at the family-owned, Glasgow-based manufacturer’s headquarters, ahead of the launch of its new £4,000 streaming Selekt DSM network music player, Gilad Tiefenbrun (pictured) said: “The high street will have to go more experiential to survive – we realised that a long time ago, around the time of the financial crisis, that people stopped going to shops in the same way.

“We’ve always been about the experience and we’ve stepped up our work with [dealer] events – we’ve given people more reasons to go to a hi-fi store. Events are a bigger part of what we’re doing – that’s the future of the high street.”

Mr Tiefenbrun told ERT that Linn had become choosier about the retailers that it works with and had dramatically reduced its dealer base across the UK and Europe over the past two years.

He said: “We have about 140 dealers across Europe – probably around 40 in the UK. It’s approximately 50 per cent of what it was two years ago [across the UK and Europe].

“We’ve especially clamped down on retailers who aren’t as committed and who aren’t offering the same levels of customer experience or committed to demonstrating products. We’re making sure that the retailers who are the most committed are getting the sales that they’re generating.”

He added: “You don’t have a situation where a customer goes into a retailer and is shopping on price, then goes to another retailer, who hasn’t made the same commitment as they have on demonstration or partnering with us, but they’re able to sell that same product, but for less. They’re not that bothered about Linn or protecting the brand.”

Commenting on how it’s working more closely with its dealers, Mr Tiefenbrun said: “Increasingly, our relationship with retailers has become far more important. Linn has always reinforced specialist retail – we’ve always provided training and ensured our products are never sold online – they have to be installed. We go together with the retailer to the customer and we’ve put a lot more emphasis on whom we work with as regards to retailers.

“The big shift for us has been not just thinking about the end customer and the performance of the products, but our relationship with retailers and being the best possible business partner that we can.

“We think that there are a lot of companies that are far more financially-driven. Because we’re not driven by quarterly results – we don’t have any external shareholders – we’re able to take a much longer-term view.”

Linn Selekt DSM network music player

Mr Tiefenbrun said Linn was focusing on dealers who provide quality demonstrations, installation and customer service.

He told ERT: “We’re now talking a lot more with our retailers – we have annual conferences. We bring them here [Glasgow] and we say, ‘here’s our vision for what retail could look like – we want to work with you more closely’.

“We’ve re-engaged with our retailers – we’ve provided them with tools that help their businesses and help them make sales and we provide training, events and support.”

He added: “With our latest product [the Selekt DSM network music player] we ran retailer focus groups at an early stage in the process. It’s our strategy to work more closely with retailers who want to work more closely with us. The net effect of that is that we’re working with fewer retailers.”

Mr Tiefenbrun said: “With new products, we’re giving some retailers exclusivity for a period [of time]. If they’ve signed up to our Linn Growth Partnership agreement that will give them a head start on any new production introduction. We’re finding more bespoke and tailored ways to treat retailers and support the independent specialist channel.”

Linn’s new Selekt DSM streaming network music player will be available from October. It is a modular and upgradable product. The following configurations are available at the point of purchase or can be upgraded to at a later date:

Selekt DSM £4,000
Selekt DSM with integrated amps £5,250
Selekt DSM with Katalyst DAC £5,500
Selekt DSM with amps and Katalyst DAC £6,750

Upgrades come in the form of removable cartridges, so that a Linn specialist retailer can carry out an upgrade in a customer’s home. The Selekt DSM is available in a black finish.