Insight: What Has Happened to Specialty Retailing?
Maureen Jenson, Editor in Chief of CustomRetailer, recently shared a letter with me from a specialty retailer who posed the question, “What’s happened to specialty retailing?”
The letter expresses many frustrations and questions about the accuracy of manufacturers’ specifications. The writer declared that many specs were inaccurate and therefore specialty retailers were at a competitive disadvantage in trying to sell consumers better products. The writer also explored the whole gamut of distribution, warehouse clubs and big box movers who are selling more expensive video displays. What amazed me most about this letter was that it could have been written in 1974, when I first started working in the consumer electronics industry.
Rules and Regulations
It is not only the banking and credit industry that’as suffered from fewer and less-effective rules and regulations; so has consumer electronics.
During the early ‘70s, I was on the sales floor of an audio retailer and found that consumers were always comparing power specifications for receivers and amplifiers. Since many manufacturers had different standards for measuring power, if was difficult for salespeople selling honestly rated product. When I was confronted with a low-priced, high-powered product, I was to tell the consumers that many of the advertised products used the “ILS” standard for measuring power—the advertised product could only put out that amount of power “if lightning struck.” Although some consumers did understand that an all-in-one stereo system could not reasonably put out more power than a receiver or separate amplifier, certainly others just bought by the “numbers.”
The lack of strict rules and regulations for stating power output was finally changed when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instituted rules for measuring and stating the power produced by an amplifier or receiver. These rules were, for the most part, followed by most quality manufacturers until the introduction of home theater products.