Sennheiser Opens Pop-Up Stores in New York and San Francisco for the Holiday Season

Initial concept illustration for Sennheiser pop-up store.

A couple of weeks ago, Sennheiser announced it will be opening a couple of pop-up stores for this years holiday season (November 22nd to December 28th), one in New York and one in San Francisco. The press release waxes poetic about the store designs and current Momentum and Urbanite marketing efforts, but it all just seems a little odd to me. I mean, how much of an impact can Sennheiser really make with two stores open for only one month? I decided to get in touch with Stefanie Reichert, a key strategic marketing executive with Sennheiser, for a deeper look at how these stores fit into their overall strategies. A very interesting and illuminating conversation ensued.

Stephanie told me the stores were, in large measure, about engaging U.S. customers and learning how to fine tune their value proposition. Sennheiser is an engineering company first, and needs to have a very clear understanding of the relationship between its products, their performance, and the wants and needs of consumers in order to be successful. She said, for example, that they see opportunities to sell headphones in untraditional ways—like in fashion oriented stores—but to do so it's critical that they understand in great detail what selling propositions work in those environments. The pop-up store will give Sennheiser personal direct access to consumers in a buying frame of mind in order to hone their understanding of the sales proposition, which will later allow them to do a better job of providing sales tools to other retail partners.

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Photo of Urbanite display recently taken at one of the locations.

So basically, that's what these stores are all about: A way for Sennheiser to have direct contact with consumers so both are better able to understand each other. I then began to pull back away from the stores themselves to try to get a feel for Sennheiser's overall strategy.

I began by mentioning my article about brick and mortar headphone stores and my belief that they are a viable business model. She agreed, but I got the sense she thought it was tricky. She mentioned working with the Massachusetts company "Sound Lion" who have two stores in the Boston area—one in Harvard Square, and another in the Burlington Mall. Interestingly, she said while both are viable, the Harvard Square location does quite a bit better than the mall location, and felt that headphone stores are very likely quite location sensitive, generally needing a very active youth demographic—like around a college.

Stephanie felt that headphone stores were likely a part of the retail mix, but in the long run headphones are likely to become available through a number of different types of stores. She mentioned fashion retailers, but also thought accessory stores may get into the mix—think a women's store that sells purses, gloves, and overcoats, perhaps. And, of course, consumer electronics stores. I wish I thought to talk to her a bit more about that as I find most consumer headphone displays sonically abysmal. It would have been interesting to hear what she thought about Sennheiser specific point-of-purchase display and how they might fit in with their strategy.

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Urbanites close up.

Lastly, we spent some time discussing how Sennheiser as a brand was competing with the other large brands in the headphone space. I talked about how I see Beats and Skullcandy as strong, but potentially vulnerable, brands, and how Sennheiser historically has not been able to gain a spot in the minds of consumers. Stephanie said Sennheiser is not likely to ever have the huge popular recognition of those brands, but believes a strategy of very strong demographically appropriate sub-brands (like Momentum and Urbanite) will become readily apparent to the consumer who decides to make an effort to wisely choose headphones. I definitely think Sennheiser has made significant headway with brand recognition using this strategy.

Well, the next question became pretty obvious to me: If Sennheiser is reaching out to various demographic segments with the Momentum and Urbanite brands, are there more of these sub-brands in the pipe-line? The answer—which I waited for with baited breath—was, "Yes."

Woot! Boy, I can't wait to see what's coming from Sennheiser!

Anyhow, it seem like these pop-up stores are just one component of a very complex and well thought out Sennheiser strategy. If I were in New York or San Francisco I would love to visit one just to experience the dialog with Sennheiser personal. I'm sure their questions would be very telling. If any InnerFidelity readers go visit on of these locations, please feel free to comment about your experiences below.

The stores will be located at 11 Kenmare St. in Manhattan [between Bowery & Elizabeth streets—subway: Bowery, J, Z lines.] and at 2277 Mission Street in San Francisco (between 18th & 19th streets). Refreshments will be served.

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COMMENTS
thune's picture

Bold strategy: 'Enter our creepy looking ghost cave, where a nice german lady with a clipboard will probe you repeatedly.'

Three Toes of Fury's picture

all that AND they sell Sennheisers!?! Im in!

(You had me at "probe you repeatedly"...LOL!!)

tony's picture

These can work , why not ? , SF & NY,NY ! great locations .
I'd want Full-line representation Active displays on all nicely burned in Demo Phones , music selections easily available .
The soundproofing making the enviornment pleasant and conducive to critical evaluations and comparisons ( headphone meets don't usually have this ) maybe about a 35-40 db. ambient noise level !
A nice Wall of Accessories would sell-thu giving the Store a steady Cash-Flow annnnnnnd a selection of Superb CDs to hear on great Headphones and Purchase , right there/right NOW ! , I'd be spending my monthly music budget at that place ( I have to hunt hi & lo to find LINN recordings ) .
Oh-well , here I am Pining for Bricks & Mortar Retail in the Internet Age .
Jude's Head-Fi has a huge Grado thing going , these guys seem to be collecting the whole line , it's amazing to see how many Grado products these people own and talk about , what's up with that ? , one guy just paid $3,000 for a Grado headphone that hasn't been made for 2 Decades ( still New in Box ) , phew !
Thanks for sharing all this , I love my Sennheiser stuff ( I own four and am planning an HD800/RS220 ownership ) so I guess I'm going Grado with Sennheiser !

Tony in Michigan

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Thanks for the great write up Tyll. Here's to hoping that their Brick-n-Mortar strategy works out as I reallllllllly like the company and so many of their products. Ive purchased more of their headphones than any other maker and, with a few exceptions, i find their Sound vs Cost value to almost always be great. Im stoked that you were able to ask about upcoming new headphones from them. Ive had a feeling they have some new $100-$300 headphones in the pipeline as there are several retailers offering discounted prices on the Momentum On Ear and Over Ear models. I cant wait to see whats next!

Peace & Living in Stereo

3ToF

(PS: Have you tried out the Momentum IEMs? I know thats usually not your thing and i believe Joker liked them but i was wondering your thoughts if you tried them. Im trying to decide if its worth picking up a pair or just sticking with the standby Shure SE215. If any innerfidelity readers have thoughts on the subject..do let me know...thanks!)

drblank's picture

that no one has figured out how to sell higher end stereo equipment for the mobile device listener and opened up specialty audio stores close to each Apple store and cater to the computer/mobile device listener.

They could probably do a fairly sizable amount of business in speakers, ear buds, headphones, headphone amplifiers, etc. and essentially cater their stores for this growing market segment.

Most people that walk into an Apple store don't always know what's really available and they don't normally venture out and visit a local high end audio store that's typically not right around the corner.

battyking's picture

I like to become available through a number of different types of stores. Tourbillon Black Bezel

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sophiarose122's picture

I think this is a pretty smart move from Sennheiser. Interactive retailing is no longer the expectation - it’s occurring now. Especially with tech - it improves the customer experience and helps the journey to purchase. 70-410 PDF

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