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The 2023 Clarity Alliance Conference March 3rd London

Clarity is an audio industry body which encourages and supports higher standards in audio retail, to better inform, support and serve customers.

Held at the Dolby Screening Room, Soho Square, Clarity Chairperson Elizabeth Gould began the meeting with a request to share a 1 minute silence to remember those in our industry who have sadly succumbed in the intervening years, mainly due to Covid.

Elizabeth then began proceedings, outlining the meeting events to follow. With its aim to inform and train audio dealers (Demcraft), to further the cause of quality audio, arrange beneficial deals on finance and logistics amongst other services, Clarity clearly remains a force for good in audio retail.

​At the recent return of the Bristol HiFi Show 2023: Clarity hosted the four industry awards

Best Sound of the Show” – PMC

“Best Presented Room” – REL

​”Most Welcoming Room” – Auden Distribution

The lifetime award Honorary Fellowship for an ‘Outstanding Contribution to the UK Hi-Fi Industry’ ……….and the worthy winner was Andy Giles

GFK Report

Concerning the state of the industry, Nick Simon of GFK communications expertly presented massive volumes of data on the consumer and audio related economics for the past few years. We were all looking for signs of encouragement, in particular that the downturn we have been experiencing was beginning to level off.

He noted that in 2019 while online sales were well down by 30% of the pre Covid market by value, they massively increased to 50% during Covid: quite understandable. However, they have remained at 50% even though the pandemic is over, and we think that they will remain so, including sales of HiFi Audio Separates. Turntable sales, by contrast remain particularly strong seemingly at the expense of CDs and CD players which have continued to fall. Streaming product sales remain stable. Much user consumption, i.e. spending, was in the form of online content.

The latest 2022 Black Friday sales promotion was judged pretty flat with the exception of headphones and turntables. For example, Bluetooth wireless headphones grew 34%, perhaps not surprising with customers stuck indoors. The UK headphone market had recovered from £400m 2015 to £700m by 2023 but is now levelling off. The present recession in the first quarter of 2023 has been no help.

Sales of Audio Systems, we used to call music centres, continued to decline but Vinyl Players and Hi Fi Separates continue to grow, implying that audio dealers with good demonstration facilities will continue to prosper, even in these, at present, harder times.

​Darren Sheriff of Lone Star Consulting noted that for a dealer to stand out both the retail shop and the connected online experience was important for the purchaser, and that they might visit, get a demo, leave, and then buy from that retailer on line.

Sound Advice at Clarity

A new on-line only Hi Fi product review site has been set up by experienced ex Haymarket publishing principals Bruce Black and Gary Kimberly: they introduced their new project Sound Advice which is founded on the huge Google search resources, skilfully melding with and mining this database of links and clicks.

They explained: We review home movie and music kit, that’s it. Read our reviews, then speak to one of our testers to get your personalised advice. BTW, none of our reviews are paid for! (Sound Advice)

Growing rapidly, it sports a significant team of freelance of authors and reviewers including our own Andrew Everard and Ed Selly and is already attracting attention. It enjoys a revenue arrangement with partnering dealers, rather than with manufacturers. The magazine experts also provide sales support and will respond to readers’ queries on-line. Review product may be linked to availability in participating dealers, who sign up to pay typically £80 a month to join the expanding cohort of retailers and prospective customers.

Sound Advice USPs include ‘only the best products’, lots of video review backup and a free customer helpline, this by appointment. It aims at a non-specialist, perhaps non-audiophile audience. And with the usual permissions, customer data will be shared with Sound Advice partners. A where-to-buy link comes with the reviews.

Here customer trust is founded on the impartiality and reputation of their chosen team of independent reviewers. And it seems that only ‘good’ product will be reviewed to speed up the process.

​Immersive Audio by Peter Aylett

Further presentations included the subject of Immersive Audio by the inestimable Peter Aylett covering these fascinating hyper real developments, followed by Paul Laville of T21 who majored on presentation skills and training in this evolving retail environment.

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