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Old 01-31-2008   #1
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Default Harvey's Closes Flagship Manhattan Location

The historically significant, New York-based audio-video retailer Harvey’s will be closing their 45th Street store, located on Manhattan’s famous "Radio Row.” The store closing comes as Best Buy is kicking ass and taking names in the world of big-box retail, with repercussions felt all the way up the food chain to mid-level retailers like Harvey’s.

Just five years ago, flat HDTVs gave a meaningful and large-scale group of new customers a reason to consider upgrades to their televisions for the first time in decades. At the same time, any AV dealer could make a fair margin selling one of these flat HDTVs (20 to 30 percent profit at retail), an amount that could be easily total $1,000 or more per set sold. This was before they tried to get you to "invest" in a warranty. Roll the tape forward to 2008 and the likes of Costco and Wal-Mart sell flat HDTVs as if they are no different than giant boxes of cereal or a 24-pack of paper towels, and with comparable three percent margins. So much for "specialty AV retailer." Consumers love the precipitous drop in prices, but retailers like Tweeter and Harvey’s struggle to offer "cost-is-the-only issue" sales and, like the warehouse stores, are suffering terribly nationwide. With the 25-year old Compact Disc, the leading audio format this side of an iPod, most mid-level audio stores have amazingly forgotten how to sell audio in meaningful ways, and yet audio retains the margins needed to pay the rent in Manhattan, as well as every other city in America.

Harvey’s is not going out of business as a chain. They still have a store on 19th Street in Manhattan, as well as other locations around the area that are serviced by a loyal clientele. They also reportedly own a Bang & Olufsen franchise in the city, as well as in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The closing of the 45th Street store is symbolic in many ways of how the home theater retail business has changed in recent years. My first trip ever to New York City was with my stepfather in 1983 to the 45th Street location to buy a Denon Compact Disc player. It was $1,000 at the time and the discs were close to $30 a pop. As a wide-eyed nine-year-old from Philadelphia, it was hard not to be impressed by the big city and all of its glitz, even if I deeply hated (and still do, despite a $100 bet on the Giants to cover in Sunday’s Super Bowl) New York’s sports teams. Inside Harvey’s, it was hard not to virtually be a kid in a candy store. The AV toys were everywhere and we were coming home with the newest and coolest the store had to offer. For decades after that, whether it was DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, D-VHS, satellite TV, TiVo, Blu-ray, HD DVD or even the latest computer or software from Apple, I have always been an early adopter. I like to think it all started at Harvey’s in New York way back in the day. Today, that era sadly ended, but the influence lives on – at least with me.

by: Jerry Del Colliano
Source: Informationweek.com
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