This Day On The Street
Continue to site
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

#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."

Must Read: How to Choose an Emergency Card for Your Teen

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

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

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
Stocks Under $10

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

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

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
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Real Money

More than 30 investing pros with skin in the game give you actionable insight and investment ideas.

Product Features:
  • Access to Jim Cramer's daily blog
  • Intraday commentary and news
  • Real-time trading forums
Only $49.95
14-Days Free
14-Days Free
AAPL $119.19 1.20%
FB $104.94 -0.48%
GOOG $748.15 -0.28%
TSLA $230.00 -0.70%
YHOO $33.44 1.50%


Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,788.91 -9.58 -0.05%
S&P 500 2,086.77 -3.34 -0.16%
NASDAQ 5,122.6720 -4.8530 -0.09%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs