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The factory outlet store—usually along the freeway for big-sign advertising, cheaper rents and consistent heavy traffic capturing not just the locals—has a solid tradition as a means to sell discontinued or blemished product at factory-authorized discounts not available through regular dealers. Now Gary Alpern has launched a hifi factory outlet store on the Internet freeway.
"I am doing something no one has done before even with rampant discounting. I've talked to nearly 100 manufacturers already. They're all excited over having a legitimate web place for people to get authorized gear at a discount instead of the wild Wild West of knock-offs, gray market transshipping, wrong AC voltages etc. I don't do anything on Audiophile Outlet Store without the manufacturers' consent and permission. My goal is to make online sales coexist properly with established dealer networks even though dealers at least here in the US are disappearing every day. The future is Internet sales. It dwarfs brick and mortar in all other categories.
"I knew that I would be faced by suspicion at first because there have been too many dishonest people before me selling online without any integrity. Manufacturers would be rightfully concerned. If anything they're now amazed by my completely transparent and solid policies. And my customers are incredibly happy. They have zero bad-sales experiences. To me customer service with manufacturers and customers is number one.
"My new online retail company True Audiophile will be the same. All our dealers are guaranteed a 100-mile radius for their territory and my site will never sell into their turf. While I am new to audio importing I am not new to advertising and marketing. I was international Senior VP and Creative Director for Fortune 100 companies like Apple Computers, Mitsubishi Electronics, Pioneer Electronics and many others including all the record companies and film companies here in Los Angeles. I've also been involved with audio since the late 1970s. My first first client was SpeakerLab.
"My first exclusive import brand is Audion from the UK. My national sales manager is already traveling through the U.S. signing up dealers. They will get the benefit of marketing exposure which in the US the brand has never properly received before.
"I had a long conversation with Robert Harley of The Abso!ute Sound about what I'm trying to do with both the Audiophile Outlet Store and True Audiophile. His comment was that many people have been unsuccessful at finding a way that would bring new audiophiles into the industry but that my business model is the most promising he's heard of to date. I will be making product bundles at good prices to offer people easy iPod-to-HiFi transitions and also launch a forum that's dedicated to helping people get into the hobby.
"AOS is a separate entity from True Audiophile. It only deals in B-stock, close-outs, NOS, demo and refurbished gear. So these are two different but coexisting business models. All of the products listed on AOS are directly from the manufacturers or their US importers. Nothing is unauthorized or under the table. All gear is factory authorized and under full warranty. The purpose is to allow people who got hammered by the US economy to purchase quality audio products at good pricing and allow the manufacturers to retain a customer base when the only other alternative is to buy used gear for which they see zero profit.
"Audion is interesting to US dealers at present because after many years one very popular domestic tube audio supplier finally had to just about double their pricing while another is experiencing high failure rates and poor QC. The history of Audion begins with the founding designers splitting off from Peter Quortrup when he started Audio Note UK. Audion thus is a bit like a baby Audio Note in terms of fanaticism for build and passion. It's not been available to American music lovers in too long a time. I'm about to change that and more brands will follow."