The Manufacturer Celebrates its 50th with an Eye on the Future
KEF America president Alec Chanin says that having been a retailer in a former life, he finds it sobering to see the changes on the retail landscape.
KEF, a brand known by audiophiles around the world for its innovative, high-performance loudspeaker designs, celebrates a milestone birthday next year. KEF America president Alec Chanin spoke with RS about the significance of this anniversary and offered an assessment of how a changing economic environment is affecting his dealers.
Next year, KEF celebrates its 50th Anniversary. How are youcelebrating?
Not many brands that have made it to see their 25th anniversary much less their 50th, so it is a very exciting event for KEF, and our parent GP Acoustics and all of our dealer partners around the world. As we get to CEDIA and beyond, you will start to see KEF noting this major milestone in our advertising, on our website, and in many of our communications. You should also look for some exciting announcements from KEF later this fall that will launch our 50th Anniversary celebrations.
KEF’s HTF8003 home theater sound bar is quite a looker in gloss black
At CES, KEF showed its Concept Blade loudspeaker, but the presenter stated that it actually won’t become a real product. Why not?
We get asked this a lot which I will take as a compliment. We received spectacular press and accolades focused on not only its audio performance and industrial design but also its revolutionary engineering accomplishments. KEF is one of very few acoustic companies that employ engineering personnel for pure research. As a result these research engineers enjoy the freedom to conceive what is possible without constraints of a specific product brief, encouraging them toward greater innovation and creativity. The breakthroughs developed and the technologies perfected will trickle down into products that consumers will be able buy in the near future. Ironically, one of the real challenges in KEF as a technology company is to accept that not every design or development lends itself to manufacturing but the fact that people are still talking about Concept Blade months after CES, means it was a success.
How have you adjusted to recession and what do you foresee in the next 12-18 months?
Having been a retailer in a former life, it is sobering to see the changes on the retail landscape. The fact is that we all are losing traditional retail storefronts. The CI retailer/integrator of today has also been affected by both the economy and changing buying patterns. The new specialist, either with or without a showroom, is heavily invested in custom services to clientele who value their knowledge and service. Like many suppliers, we need to find new ways to reach consumers interested in higher quality products that no longer have a specialist retailer nearby.
We are seeing some positive signs in the economy specific to our business. Things are steadily improving, and yes it is slower than we would all like, but it is getting better. We also believe there is considerable pent-up demand, and we plan to stay aggressive to participate in the upside.
Separate from the economy, though, and one of the other dynamics taking place is that our newest generation of consumers is more interested in music and video than ever before. Access, assortment and portability are all driving interest in our category. A significant percentage of these consumers will graduate to higher quality component audio as they enter new stages of their lives. Creating products that align to the lifestyle and listening habits of this next generation of upscale audio consumers is critical. Many of these listeners have never experienced high-quality audio, [so] as an industry, we manufacturers, integrators, and retailers all need to constantly remind our customers how important quality audio is to every album and every movie. We have to get this message out as an industry.