The Clarity Alliance, the UK hifi industry’s trade body, unveiled the results of the ballot for its board of directors, announced the appointment of Tom Barron as chairman and set out the Alliance’s programme for 2017 at its annual conference.

Held in Dolby’s European HQ in Soho Square, London, the Clarity Conference is the UK hifi industry’s only annual conference. Prior to the start of the conference, members of The Clarity Alliance gathered for the Annual General Meeting, at which the results of the ballot for the board directors was revealed. Taking their place on the board for 2017 are: Tom Barron (PMC); Andy Clough (Haymarket); Geoff Coleman (Acoustica); Phil Hansen (Red Sheep Communications); Geoff Mathews (Soundcraft Hi-Fi); Ian Sutton (B&W); Simon Talbot (Bartletts HiFi); Richard Trotter (Arcam) and Trevor Wilson (Naim). Retiring chairman, Laurence Armstrong (Henley Designs), remains on the board in an ex-officio capacity. The board also agreed to co-opt Elizabeth Gould (Martins Hi-Fi) and elected Tom Barron as chairman. Roger Batchelor and Alan Sircom have both retired from the board.

The conference commenced with a demonstration of Dolby Cinema, presented by Venkat Venkateshwaran, senior manager, field marketing. Presenting the state of industry, Toby Jarvis of GfK (occasionally assisted by Nick Simon) shared the latest market intelligence with the audience. And, unsurprisingly, the upward trend in streaming and turntables continues apace, with a 62% rise in sales by volume and 56% rise in value from 2015 to 2016. Other notable highlights from GfK’s presentation were the near total replacement of home theatre speaker systems by soundbars, at 95% of the sales, and the rise to £276m in sales of connected audio device during the year. Looking to the future, the conference welcomed back Peter Aylett with his ever popular CES Technology Trends presentation. “If every device sold now is Smart, then isn’t that the new baseline and hence no devices are Smart?” questioned Peter in his thought provoking talk. Covering such subjects as Interoperability, Abundance and Machine Learning, the audience was captivated by the insightful take on the latest offerings from the 2017 CES.

Clarity exists to serve its members through a range of benefits that aid the performance of its members’ businesses. Presenting the latest of these was Geoff Meads of Presto AV. iDreamAV is a new online marketplace that will shortly be integrated into the Clarity website. It provides a dedicated portal through which retailers can offer for sale their end-of-line, trade-in and second hand hifi equipment, avoiding the high fees from the popular online auction sites. It will be made available to all Clarity members as an option for their businesses and can also be integrated into their own website.

The keynote speaker of the afternoon was Richard Hartigan from Google. Focusing on the use of Google’s technologies for the improvement of business in the retail sector, Richard drew the audience’s attention to the consumers’ increasing use of mobile technology as a vital part of the purchasing process. He advocated a joined-up approach across web advertising, location based services and relationship management to create lasting relationships with purchasers. Google and Clarity have committed to running training courses throughout 2017, following the successful pilot course for Clarity members held at Google’s office in 2016.

Closing the day was a short presentation from Clarity outlining its plans for 2017. In light of the changing market conditions and political uncertainty, the board feels the Alliance can best serve its members by focusing almost exclusively on activities that directly and measurably benefit the members financially in the short to medium term. This means a series of new and enhanced member benefits, such as the iDreamAV initiative, a new website which provides clear information on the benefits for members, additional training such as the Google course and other tangible financial benefits. Clarity will also be launching a new online advertising campaign aimed at driving business directly into its members’ shops, linked to an enhanced retailer locator function on the new website.

Commenting on the coming year, incoming chairman, Tom Barron, observed, “We are very confident that our focus on providing support and carefully designed benefits for our members will reap rewards for the membership and wider industry. The market is facing a period of economic uncertainty and it is our responsibility as the industry’s trade association to provide support functions.” He continues, “Last year we were very pleased to welcome a good number of new members to Clarity, including the high-profile brands Naim, Leema and Cyrus, which is proof that our objectives resonate with the industry. With our new programme for 2017 we hope more industry members will opt to join and work together for the betterment of the whole sector.”




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