This time of year is what i refer to as "The Calm Before The Storm". Manufacturers are busy finalizing their designs for the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show). As of this writing, there is less than 70 days until these events while the holiday season looms. It is no secret that the troubles with the world economy is casing ripples within luxury good. From high-end audio to mechanical watches and fancy Italian cars... virtually everyone i have spoken with recently has been gravely concerned for the near future.
Many years ago the Asian economy took a nosedive that triggered troubles with some high-end companies who overly relied upon Asian sales. Today it seems we have a multiple of this situation as more and more countries are now struggling to keep their workforce employed and being paid enough money to survive. My apologies for the gloom and doom; yet only the most insulated person has not been hearing the news about the economy... and possible impending war. Avoiding the war issue, the consumer confidence here in the United States was on an upswing until the devastating events on September 11th.
Within the next six months we may see a shakeup within the industry. High-end audio is largely a cottage, luxury goods industry. While the $1,000 components may be moving briskly, products in the $5,000 to $10,000 range appear to be moving at a slower pace judging from my talks with manufacturers. What surprised me was that the sales of very high priced products (over $20,000) also appear to be suffering. Usually items in the upper echelon of pricing are purchased by those who have a good amount of financial reserve to easily survive long-term downturns in the economy. A few inquiries to various friends in the exotic automobile and mechanical watch retail business appear to echo the problems now experienced within the high-end audio community.
Please also realize that there are quite a few companies doing great business today and in the foreseeable future. These companies are usually fine-tuned efficiently and offer a diverse array of great products. Very small single or two man companies usually do well, as high-end audio is not their real job. It is more a hobby and brings them joy in offering great products to music lovers worldwide. We will be seeing many great things in the years to come.
All in all the consumer electronics industry is doing well. This article is not to spell doom and gloom, instead it is simply a reality check as we all need to help promote the joys of music and how high-end audio enhances our satisfaction in life. We each have the power to share our joyous hobby with others in hopes they, too, join the ranks of those seeking to better reproduce music within their home.
They say "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". Many of us within the industry will need to tighten our belts and work not just harder, but also smarter to survive. While i have no magical crystal ball to foresee the future, from where i sit today it looks very promising... if a bit of a struggle. Let us all hope 2003 brings about great riches and rewards to us all. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...