i3 - November/December 2017 - 62

By Steve Smith

T
REC
E TA
HI P
LO
ST
L IRCY
AT EG I E S

Azione's Profit
Concerto Blooms

 A 

zione Unlimited, the buying group of custom integrators
(CI) and vendors, thinks outside the box. The latest
move by its president, Richard Glikes, illustrates
how consumer technology is moving into new areas. I caught
up with Glikes when Azione celebrated its fifth anniversary.
We talked about his decision to sell the Steinway Spirio, a high
resolution player piano that plays the performances of great
pianists as if it were a live performance.

Glikes explained the logic of the group,
consisting of 179 CI businesses selling
a player piano. "Spirio was referred to me
by a friend in the music business who
also knows Steinway & Sons," he said.
"They want to get the right [upscale]
clients, and we have those clients."
The Spirio comes in two models,
one with a five-figure price tag and
the other with six. Given the cost, and
the fact that the overwhelming majority
of Azione's clients are among the wealthiest in the country, Glikes believes this
will be a winning partnership. He said,
"Steinway is obviously interested in
62

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

music, and audio was how many of our
members entered this business." Azione's
CI members, "see plans of upscale homes
before they are built. Some plans say
'music room,' while others would be
a great place to put a piano," he added.
Glikes had the initial meeting with
Steinway at its Manhattan offices and took
a tour at the factory in Astoria, Queens
a few months later. "When we visited the
factory, watching them build pianos by
hand, I knew we did the right thing." Each
piano takes 11 months to build so the first
few Spirios sold by Azione will be installed
next year in luxury homes.

Whether it is the Steinway Spirio
or Azione's more traditional categories,
the keys are profitability and sales
growth. That was the subject at
a recent two-day Azione meeting in
Philadelphia where 30 of the 44 vendors
met with dealers on "what we do well
and what we could improve." One of the
things that helped to drive business for
the group this year was a contest that
was designed to "generate more business
for our vendors," and dealers who added
vendors to their mix. Five dealers
and four vendors won prizes based on
that criteria. The bottom
line, Glikes said, was
The Steinway
that they "had 438 lines
Spirio, a high
adopted by our dealers
resolution
with 89 of our dealers
piano player.
adding at least one line.
"We got people focused on our brands,"
he continued. "We have a group of happy
vendors. Our overall gross dollars for
the seven months of the contest was
30 percent." The long-term effect of such
a contest in the custom business is,
"Once you buy a line, you stay with a line.
We got [vendors] in the door." Azione
is planning another contest next year.
The custom installation business
is not retail, in that the fall and fourth
quarter are not the key time periods
for these technology companies.
Glikes reported that for his group,
"low- and middle-priced jobs are okay,
but the big jobs are back. Our dealers
are focused on the high-end."
As for Azione's competitors, Glikes
noted, "The real thing now is we have the
attention of Amazon, IBM, [and other]
companies with artificial intelligence,
virtual reality and voice command. We
have the attention of the [corporate]
giants who will try to come in and make
this simple. It's going to be very interesting. This is the next scary thing out there,
the big boys playing in the little pond."
In the meantime Azione dealers are
growing not only with distributed
audio, but home security, lighting and
shade installations and, of course,
premium 4K UHD TVs.
Steve Smith is the former editor
in chief of TWICE magazine.
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N

Courtesy Steinway & Sons

Business


http://www.azioneunlimited.com/

i3 - November/December 2017

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