Thiel Audio President Kathy Gornik and Director of Sales Ken Dawkins talk with CR’s Nancy Klosek about the company’s push to cultivate complementary distribution channels while preserving its 30-year brand legacy of high-performance loudspeaker manufacturing.
CR: Thiel Audio has grown its reputation through the years as a supplier of boutique-type ultra-high-end speakers to dealers who have the proven ability and showroom logistics to demonstrate and explain their qualities. You’re also one of the few companies that has guarded the image it has cultivated, even through these difficult times for traditional loudspeaker companies. How you have had to reassess your go-to-market strategies recently? And in general, what are some of the dynamics that are radically different this year for high-end, limited-distribution speaker companies versus, say, the five years prior to this year?
Gornik: We monitor the industry and are well-connected within CEA [the Consumer Electronics Association], and we see evidence strongly indicating that the independent specialist is struggling. We still consider that channel extremely important to Thiel, and will never give up on it or diminish it, but we feel it is important to adapt to changing times, which means also addressing the emerging channels in custom installation. Our view is that high-performance is important in any industry, and although the custom installation business didn’t start out that way, there’s been an upward trend over the years. What’s different, perhaps, is an increasing interest on the part of the integrator/installer in high-end.
Dawkins: It’s driven by margin. Like lighting and control, it provides an opportunity for the integrator to make more money. But also, the end user is demanding better and better everything; they’re more educated, with the internet and the opportunity to learn more about what they’re spending their money on. People are aware that there’s a high-end in every industry, and they are at least willing to listen to those who are able to sell and dispense better products and services.