In his editorial in Home Theater Review Jerry Del Colliano put forward the idea that EVERY Audio retailer should have an area for headphone listening somewhere in their establishment. I heartily agree with this idea, but given the nature of business the "build it and they will come" concept is only the first step to energizing and building a headphone area that delivers more than a customer can get from an on-line headphone specialist.
So how does a retailer add value to headphones? Here's three directions a retailer could take to make their headphone department relevant and worth visiting.
Train your floor staff on how to sell earphones - what questions to ask prospective customers and where to point them based on their answers. There's no sense steering a hip-hop fan who likes lots of bass to an Etymotic 4P...they would be much happier with the Velodyne Pulse.
Form a relationship with a local Audiologist. Just like the "Music Matters Seminar" why not have a "Headphone Matters" seminar? And instead of audio writers, feature an Audiologist available to do ear impressions for custom in-ear monitors and/or offer discounts for impressions made at the Audiologist's location. Also what about a mini head-fi type meeting where headphone owners could bring in their own rigs to compare and contrast with other's. Developing a nexus for the local headphone enthusiast community would bring in more energy to a retailer than any single "Music Matters" evening.
Why not form a working relationship with a custom earphone re-manufacturer such as Fisher Hearing in Florida? Being able to offer custom in-ears and the capability to refurb earbuds into custom in-ears would make for more happy customers. How many audiophiles have a pair of Shure 500 earphones sitting in their drawer with a broken cable? I know I do.
If retailers hope to survive they must embrace products that appeal to folks under the age of 60. Headphones are an ideal way to begin the process of remaining viable into the 21st century.