Surround Sounds managing director Dale Seeley is feeling right at home in his revamped Nedlands audio-visual store after its transformation into an integrated Smart Home complete with formal lounge, sports bar, kitchen, office, bedroom and spa.
Following trends in high-end homes, the store is an Aladin’s cave of plasma TVs, state-of-the-art audio and lighting systems, touch screen units and modern furnishings, anchored by an aquarium wall full of tropical fish.
Mr Seeley said the decision to close five Surround Sound stores in Perth after 17 years had allowed him to consolidate all merchandise, services and expertise under one roof.
“I had a business consultant come in and he said we had a great business but about 50 per cent of our turnover was coming from the Nedlands store and 85 per cent of our net profit too,” he said.
“I scratched my head, looked at my wife and realised I wasn’t sleeping as well as I should and thought ‘let’s change it’.”
After expanding the Nedlands store to 1,000 square metres to incorporate the Smart Home, the company took on the head lease while allowing up-market kitchen retailer Livitalia to sublease a separate room facing Stirling Highway.
Mr Seeley said the companies had formed a strategic alliance whereby Livitalia’s floor space connected to that of Surround Sounds through an opening in the wall, inviting customers of either store to visit the other.
“About one and a half years ago we saw an opportunity there. We thought anyone who was buying an up-market European kitchen probably needed a big TV, so we poked a hole in the wall,” he said.
Surround Sound’s other important alliances are with home builders such as Brian Burke Homes, Zorzi Group and Spaddacini Homes, all of which are witnessing growing demand for low voltage integration of audio, video, lighting, heating, cooling, communications and security in new homes and renovations.
However, the local scene was very different back in 1989.
At the time, the Canadian-born Mr Seeley, who had been living in Perth for five years, took the plunge and opened his first Surround Sounds store in Cannington. It was shortly after the stock market crash.
“My accountant thought I was nuts. He said, ‘you want to sell up-market audio-video systems? There’s blood on the streets out there; who’s going to buy this stuff?’”
Mr Seeley credits his quest for market domination as the reason why he went on to open six stores around Perth in Cannington, Joondalup, Midland, Myaree, Osborne Park and Nedlands.
He is now content to focus on the central Nedlands store and growing his Surround Sound retail and custom divisions, the latter providing integrated low-voltage solutions, predominantly to the new home market.
“A home entertainment and automation system is not one size fits all. We go out and meet with the clients and assess their needs,” Mr Seeley said.
“We sit, demonstrate, explain, but ultimately take responsibility.”
Mr Seeley said the store was certainly not elitist, and had customers coming in to buy affordable DVDs and components.