I'm posting this in High-End Audio in the belief that many here are also addicted to expensive cameras, lenses etc. This is NOT about photography - its about the death of brick-and-mortar 2-channel audio and the general impression that headphones are for kids with 50 bucks to spend. Downtown retailers want customers who walk in, pick up a box and take it to the cash register - everything else is just costing them time and money. Imagine a picky audiophile who wants to spend an entire morning auditioning everything in the store ?
It doesnt take long on Head-Fi to realise that even folk in NYC seem to find themselves in the same situation as those of us in much smaller towns and cities all over the world - almost all of our purchases have to be made online. Makes sense, doesnt it - how many retailers can afford to pay rent and wages on a retail operation aimed at a niche market, right ? At best, you might find a speaker amp in the midst of an A/V showroom - forget about decent headphones and count on the prices being exorbitant for what they do have. Thats retail in a high-rent / high-wage environment. We can bitch about their 'outrageous markups', but someone has to sign those cheques.
Now step into one of the nationwide franchises dedicated to ~2K cameras and megadollar lenses (even headphones - usually Senn). These can be found, AFAIK, in the CBD of every Australian city and are often crowded with tourists and locals alike.
Of course, anyone trying to operate such a business has to know that they are going to be visited by people who want to pick their brains then go online and buy the chosen camera as cheaply as possible - same-same audio, Well, one of the retailers isn't prepared to cop that:
SO MANY people buy their cameras online from foreign retailers that one Sydney camera store now charges tyre kickers an ''explanation fee''; if you want to handle the camera and have a salesperson give you the low-down it will cost you $30. How else will local retailers cope with the time wasters who, armed with the information from the shop, go home and order online?
So where am I going with this rant ? Simple : tyre-kickers aside, the businesses above are paying for some of the most expensive floorspace anywhere - Sydney is heinously expensive - and paying Australian wages on top of that, competing with cutprice online operations and STILL keeping their doors open. Clearly, they are selling to a mature, cashed-up market which attaches a value to in-store expertise and after-sales service. That, or there is a consumer out there which few other businesses are unable to capture in these trying times - rich and dumb,
Given that we have folk here who suffer from both addictions - audio and photography - I've come here in search of something resembling an answer. Its particularly galling when I am in downtown Brisbane and I see a 'Teds' almost right next door to a 'Georges' - display cases overflowing with expensive toys - dont even get me started on the few stores which sell anything resembling 'audio'.
Apologies for the length of this post - its just a frustrating paradox - I guess I completely over-estimate the size of the market for good sound.