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Focal Powered by Naim North American Grand Opening

12-23-2019 | By Adam Goldfine | Issue 106

On October 30th, Focal Naim America, manufacturer of Focal speakers and Naim electronics opened its first branded store inside of Scottsdale, AZ dealer LMC Home Entertainment's exquisite high end audio/home theater store. At the grand opening I had a chance to sit down with LMC owner Mike Ware as well as Focal Naim America's VP of Marketing and Communication, Romain Vet.

Focal Naim America

Adam Goldfine: Good evening, Romain. Please tell me what this store is about.

Romain Vet: Hi, good evening. Several years ago we began opening Focal and Naim stores worldwide. We have some in South Korea, and France. We are doing this because we want to create an identity. We want to give listeners the opportunity to see the entire Focal/Naim universe. We also want to show off products we are about to produce.

LMC is the perfect location. We have an excellent relationship with Mike and the store is absolutely beautiful. Mike carries the best hi end brands in the world. So, when we started to discuss a store in the US, we were really excited about the idea of opening the store with Mike. Every time we come to LMC, we are really surprised by the number of different rooms he has, the speakers and electronics... so we said okay, let's go for this adventure, let's see how we can do. We know that Scottsdale and Phoenix are growing in terms of population and the economy. So, it was a really good opportunity to open a Focal Powered by Naim store in USA.

So, this is the first store in the United States?

Yes, this is the first store Focal Powered by Naim store in the United States and even in North America.

So, Apple and Microsoft and some of the more mainstream brands, obviously very different from Focal and Naim, different even than the high end industry, have opened branded stores. So, this is a pretty unique departure for a high end company. What is the thinking behind it?

I think so. We never compare our brands with brands like Sonos or Bose for example. But the idea is again, we want to show our universe. We have really high end products, but we also have some mid range and even entry level products. Of course it's not a $10 product, but we have wireless Focal headphones for $69 that you can see in the store right now. We have some really affordable products and products that go all the way up to the Grande Utopia at $250,000 or with a dedicated finish they can go up to $400,000 or $500,000 depending on the finish you want.

At the same time, we know that the luxury market and the luxury economy is growing. We have many people who would spend on speakers what others might spend on a car, but they would prefer the speakers. So, what is the best way to present your product? Is it in a store with all the competitors or is it in a dedicated store? I think both approaches are good. I think having a dedicated store is an opportunity again to show all of our expertise and all of our products from the source to the speakers.

Interesting. Something you said was very interesting. I've been involved with high end audio for a very long time. Over the years, the industry has been very successful at sort of keeping itself hidden from most of the population, so its sounds like some of the efforts you're making are reaching a larger audience. Would you say that's true?

Ehhh . . .

Or no, it's still kind of the same?

No, I won't say it's not true. When we talk about the $100,0000 speakers, not everybody can buy speakers at this price, but that's not our only market. As I said, we have headphones at $69 but the same engineers who work on the $4000 headphones work on the $69 headphones. So, the level of expertise that goes into the entry level, will be exactly the same as on the flagship or on the really high end range. The high end range is also, for us, a kind of a laboratory because it is where we can find new technologies, it's where we develop new materials, new ways to improve our sound, and this all finds its way into our entry level and mid range products.


For example, we developed the inverted dome tweeter for the Grande Utopia, but now use an inverted dome in the Chora which starts at $499 (each).

A floor standing speaker?

No, it's a bookshelf. It's a new one that we just announced during Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, two months ago. It's a new line of speaker, entry level, completely made in France which replaced a really old and famous range we had in the catalog for 15 years, Chorus. Chora replaced Chorus. Chorus was made in China. Chora is made in France.

So whats the price range in the Chora line?

We start at $499 up to $1999.

That's amazing, I can't tell you how many people I've seen go out and spend $1000, $2000 on a speaker system from Best Buy or something. They get home and I listen to it and think you just wasted your money. There's so many better things you can buy. Again, the high end industry has been very successful at keeping itself a secret.

Yes, unfortunately...

Anything else we should know?

No, I think it's really... again, we are really excited about this new store. We are really excited at our product range. I think that all of our engineers who work in France or in the UK are really good at what they do and we are really happy to have them working for Focal and Naim. When you visit our factory, when you visit our production, they always want to explain what they are doing and what you see here is the result of what we are doing, in France and the UK in our laboratory. So we are really excited about that.

What i heard in there just sounds spectacular, especially the new Grande Utopias.

Thank you. Yeah, It's really massive. [laughing]

You need a big room. [laughing]

Yes, we are really happy. And also thanks to Vicoustic because we have Vicoustic panels everywhere in our demo rooms. The quality of the rooms is really, really good.

What's the name of the panels?

It's Vicoustic. It is a Portuguese brand. They make everything in Portgual. It is amazing. They make several different panels you can use in a studio or hifi rooms. They can be installed in restaurants or bars where it's too noisy. And thanks to them, we also improve the quality of our speakers.

It's made a big difference.

Exactly. And at the same time, and this is my point of view, they are beautiful.

I agree. Well thank you... that was really great.

My pleasure.

Focal Naim America

Adam Goldfine: So tell me how did all this come about.

Mike Ware: Well, we've liked Focal for a long time. The speaker has a good pedigree, good history. We are trying to be within, kind of like the Penske Auto Group. What Penske auto group is to high end cars, LMC wants to be to high end audio. So we are pretty happy right now. We have, I think, the very best of the best of the brands. And they don't cannibalize each other. They are different customers. It's just like an ice cream parlor. If vanilla was the only flavor, then every ice cream parlor would just sell vanilla. If there was only one best car, you wouldn't have Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and Porsches and Bugattis and Mercedes, you would have one. Same thing with audio. It is a different flavor, but that's good. It gives us a choice.

But, when we were approached by Focal, and they showed some interest in us doing their first North American Focal Powered by Naim experience center, I thought, hmmm that sounds pretty cool. We were pretty much in "go" mode from the get go. We worked out the details. I think it will be a good relationship. and a win-win for everybody.

How do you think... obviously I've talked to you a lot about, when Philip (O'Hanlon) and I were here, expanding the reach and awareness of high end audio to a greater population. Do you think that having a brand in store is going to impact that?

I think it will because I think one thing that will help is that they have a whole marketing department that is dedicated now to that. So they are going to have some of the same goals we are. Expose it more to the affluent client. Because what the industry, as we have discussed, does a poor job of, is getting the word out. There are an awful lot of people that could easily afford most, if not everything that we offer, but they don't even know that category of product exists. And that's the real sad thing.

Focal Naim America

Yeah, people spend a fortune on cars, cigars, jewelry, artwork, airplanes, you name it. And then high end audio gets completely overlooked because there is no awareness of it whatsoever.

Correct. So we are trying to fix that with what we can do. We are going to do more events, more charity events, more partnerships with other luxury retailers in different categories for overlap. Then the fact that Focal/Naim hired someone just for their luxury marketing, I thought, "It's about time." We want to be part of that. The speakers and the electronics are phenomenal obviously, but again, I really don't think that's going to cannibalize anything else that we have. And I would certainly expect that the other manufacturers would think similarly. In fact, I would kind of think they would be excited about the opportunity to potentially get more clients to see their gear, too.

Right, bringing greater awareness to Focal/Naim and the store itself will expose more potential buyers to other brands and high end audio as a whole.

Yup and that happens with some of our brands already. And I'm just excited and tired. We've done this entire feat, the tenant improvements, the build out in less than three months. It's been a lot of very late nights, but it's worthwhile. It came out really good.

It looks spectacular.

Thank you.

Cool, thank you.

The Focal Powered by Naim showroom is located at:

LMC Home Entertainment

15507 North Scottsdale Road

Suite 135

Scottsdale, AZ 85254



All images ©2019 Adam Goldfine, used with permission.