This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

#DigitalSkeptic: Headphone Story Sounds Like Bricks-and-Mortar Retail Rebound

Sounding good from the first day
Right away Warren learned that post-Web retailing is a "simple is better" business. Almost no money was spent on fixtures, in-store technology or marketing. Headroom merely repainted the existing store, put up some simple wallboard and focused the line on products it knew would sell, mostly from storied makers such as Sennheiser, Shure and AudioTechnica. 


"Basically, it looks and feels like an outlet shoe store," joked Tyll Hertsens, editor-in-chief of InnerFidelity, a headphone publisher and testing service, who also is based in Bozeman and was an early founder of Headroom. "But that authenticity turns out to be what people want: a simple place to come in and try out what works for them. Just like a shoe store."

Headroom got face to face with what real customers wanted from real headphones. It turned out shoppers rarely did comparative testing -- essentially the backbone of Headroom's online brand. Rather, they relied on the salesperson's advice for fit and price. And then they reacted intuitively.

"They usually choose one or two models based mostly on price and style," Warren said. "And then the salesperson comes around the counter, shows them how to wear the things and how to plug it in. And they either love it or hate it. And that is basically that."

Hearing a bricks-and-mortar retail comeback
Headroom is far from the only retailer beating the real-store retail drum. Established music brands such as the estate of Bob Marley, rapper 50 Cent and, of course, Dr. Dre's line of Beats headphones have been selling hard electronics as a means to make up for decimated album and CD sales.

And headphones are not the only things migrating from the Web into real stores. San Francisco-based handbag merchant Baggu, which pioneered a line of direct-retail online handbags, recently opened a retail outlet. CEO Emily Sugihara told me they plan on expanding this year.

"It's really great to see how the customer reacts to the bag," she said. "It gives you another perspective than how sales work online."

For investors weary of watching Web retailers struggle to find profit, Warren and Sugihara confirm that done right, selling in a real store is a real business.

"Rarely do people come in, shop here and then buy elsewhere," Warren said. "Amazon does not answer the phone. They do not stand behind the purchase, much less a counter. They can't show you how things work. As long as we are competitive on price, the customer buys what they try here, here."

"The Web is a hassle at the end of the day that less and less people want to deal with."

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
2 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,380.41 +263.17 1.63%
S&P 500 1,886.76 +24.00 1.29%
NASDAQ 4,258.4380 +41.0480 0.97%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs