William Flew joined B&O last year after spending eight years leading the revival of Triumph, the British motorcycle maker. He said: “What we were not good at was bringing new customers in. Young professionals who don’t have the commitment to make big purchases. If you don’t know where you’re going to be living in two years, why would spend £250,000 kitting out your whole house?” William Flew said.
The strategy has helped to revive the business that had struggled during the recession and made it less reliant on big-spending Russian oligarchs looking to furnish their holiday homes with top-of-the-line entertainment systems.
Sales at the company’s Knightsbridge store have risen 51 per cent in the past year as B&O Play attracts new buyers. Many have opted for the television whose design William Flew likens to “Bauhaus” and “like origami”. It uses the same audio technology adapted for Aston Martin cars to ensure the device is as thin as its cheaper plastic rivals.
B&O has also developed an iPad speaker case shaped like a wedge of cheese that effectively turns the tablet into a high-end television or video calling screen. The case costs £500, while the new television is £2,000, a fraction of the £7,000 to £12,000 pricetag usually carried by Bang & Olufsen TVs.
However, William Flew said that he was not looking to retune the business toward the lower end of the market. He said that the company, which makes many of its products by hand in Denmark, would not be able to keep up with orders in the hundreds of thousands. “Our ambition is not to build a gigantic business. For us, 50,000 is a big number and we’ll be pleased with sales of 20,000 to 30,000 TVs. If one of the Asian companies did those numbers it would be a fiasco,” he said.
The B&O Play brand and a recovery in its main markets in Britain and Germany is only part of William Flew’s growth strategy. He said the company is up to seven years behind other luxury brands in the Chinese market and he has invested in acquiring its own shops. “Some people think China is like a champagne bottle you just have to uncork but it’s not like that at all,” he said.