Peter Ogley, COO of Sennheiser Consumer Products,
outside the new flagship store at 5 Martin Place

Sennheiser has a shiny new flagship store in the landmark building of 5 Martin Place, the historic original home of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The ribbon was cut at 6.30pm as massed Sennheiser staff welcomed the first guests to the new store, which allows hands-on experience of not only Sennheiser consumer headphones, but also office and professional products such as the AMBEO VR microphone, conference systems, stage microphones and more.

Plus there were a few surprises to experience, such as the first sample to reach Australia of Sennheiser’s forthcoming and long-awaited AMBEO soundbar, not due to launch until mid next year. And the luxurious HE1 flagship headphone system, the c.$80,000 successor to the Orpheus, is in the same private room, available for booked demonstrations (no walk-ins please)...

Before the ribbon-cutting we spoke with Peter Ogley, the charming COO of Sennheiser Consumer Products, visiting from Sennheiser Head Office for the store opening.

Sound+Image: So how long have you been running dedicated Sennheiser stores like this?
Peter Ogley: We’re fairly new in our stores. A couple of years ago we opened a flagship store in Berlin, our first test — obviously home ground and a great city. About 12 months ago we opened San Francisco, and that was a really good experiment to understand how we could appeal to our US customers. And now Australia!

S+I: So Australia is third?
PO: Third of our flagship stores, we also have a number of other retail stores. Australia’s been a really growing market for us, we seem to resonate with the customers really well here, and where better than an iconic city like Sydney. When our head of sales saw this building he said ‘this is the place we have to be’... it really marries the heritage of our company with the store design which has that cutting edge approach... to really show the heritage of the company but also being at the forefront of innovation and technology. I think it’s is a nice blend.

S+I: The last decade or so has seen so many companies enter the headphone market — is this part of Sennheiser creating differentiation?
PO: It’s really about letting people experience the product. We’ve got such a wide portfolio — everything from our HE 1, to our AMBEO Smart Headset which you’re using, it’s a very broad church of product. And this gives us a real opportunity for people to come in and experience this. So many people know of Sennheiser, not so many people have actually experienced Sennheiser. This gives them the opportunity.

(Our full interview will appear in the Sound+Image Feb/Mar 2019 issue.)

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The store certainly meets the brief of the flagship location. We spoke with the manager and deputy manager, both good value, and impressively knowledgeable on technology in general, as well as the latest retail trends. We were delighted to discover that a scent diffusion system was being used to puff out vibes at the entrance — we have encountered scent use in cinemas and home cinemas, but were ignorant that so many retail stores now deliver scent as part of a sensory retail experience. When we asked for details we discovered that the choice for the evening was ‘Amalfi Coast’. ‘Australian Coast’ apparently came a close second in the pre-opening sniff tests, we were informed, but also lost out because, you know, you'd want to know which bit of the Australian Coast, really. 

The Sennheiser HE1, successor to the Orpheus. You can book demonstrations
in the private room at the back of the flagship store.

We also had conversation with Dennis Wendt, Sennheiser’s Director of Direct Sales, which includes all the branded stores and also the company’s own online sales. Wendt has developed the flagship stores and also smaller retail operations, which include pop-up stores — a presence which can to test locations before committing long-term. The Sydney store is very much not a pop-up, we were told; a longer term commitment has already been made.

Also Wendt has developed the first Sennheiser franchise store, in Kuala Lumpur, an arrangement which could apply in markets where full ownership of stores might not be possible, notably China.

Is the idea for the flagship stores to be a branding exercise, we asked him? Is Sennheiser happy for people to experience the products but buy elsewhere?

A branding exercise pitch would have been an unlikely green light with the brothers (Dr Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser), we were told. Break-even would be a minimum, if not in the first year, thereafter.

Sennheiser staff at the event were expecting sales at the flagship store to be at MSRP. This would give due consideration to nearby Sennheiser dealers, including JB Hi-Fi. The flagship store presents itself alongside Sydney's most upmarket international brand stores, so discounting might not be a deal-breaker on profitability here. Those running the store did, however, give us the impression that they will definitely be chasing the sale.

So it's possible you can shop in style, and still enjoy a good price.

Not to mention the aromas of the Amalfi Coast.

For more information on the store,visit: https://en-au.sennheiser.com/sennheiser-brand-store-flagship-store or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SennheiserSYD/

The AMBEO sounder - the only one in Australia, since it's not due for launch until the middle of next year.
Sennheiser had its recent Sound+Image awards on show in the new store.
Champagne to go with the smell of the Amalfi Coast...