I recently caught up with James Krakowski, Executive VP, Americas Bowers & Wilkins to talk about the COVID-19 impact on business, dealer support, and forging into 2021! Part 2
Maureen Jenson: A lot has changed in the world over the past seven months. How have the impacts from COVID-19 affected Bowers & Wilkins and how are you pushing through this unprecedented time?
James Krakowski: You’re right; a lot has changed, and we all have had to adapt quickly. But what hasn’t changed is that Bowers & Wilkins offers products that make meaningful contributions to peoples’ lives. Music connects us all and can bring peace to a chaotic environment. It invokes emotions and helps us manage through tough times. As a company, Bowers & Wilkins has stayed true to who we are and looked for ways we could support each other, support our dealers, and meet the needs of our fans. Like most, we felt the initial impact from the downturn in business but that did not cause us to overreact in a fashion that could negatively impact our brand or our reputation. In fact, we saw our business return to normal levels fairly quickly because of the approach we took to avoid racing to the bottom and abandoning the principals that have always guided us.
MJ: How has Bowers & Wilkins adapted to support your dealers and consumers?
JK: It begins with the consumer experience in mind. We had to make sure–during these difficult times–that our products were accessible for consumers through an omni channel approach. Thankfully we had already begun late last year to expand our digital presence which made more of our products available online. However, it was our dealers and retailers that we knew we had to support. We made changes to our shipping minimums, as well as supported drop shipping orders to consumers homes. Additionally, we expanded our online product portfolio to allow for our iconic 700 Series speakers to be transactional online with select partners that had significant inventory levels. We certainly could not leave them unable to sell our products while their stores were closed. We also increased our support for CI dealers since they were deemed essential businesses in most states. I really could not be prouder of how nimble and creative my team was to find unique ways to support our dealers in ensuring our consumer experience remained best in class.
603 S2 Anniversary Edition Oak
MJ: Any great success stories you would like to share with our readers?
JK: There are a lot of great examples of how we adapted but there are two that stand out for me the most. The first example was with the training team that acted quickly to virtually train close to 1700 sales associates between March and June. Additionally, they saw the opportunity to develop new AIA trainings on home theater design that they offered as part of a CEDIA curriculum. The second example was the product and marketing teams and our first ever virtual product launch of the new 700 Series Signature. Signature products are something special from Bowers & Wilkins and do not happen often, but the team hit a home run launching this iconic series in a virtual fashion.
MJ: What silver lining do you see for our industry during the time of Coronavirus?
JK: With every challenge there is opportunity, I firmly believe that although it’s hard for any of us to see that with all the impacts COVID-19 has had on the world. However, the silver lining that I have seen is that the virus has forced all of us to slow down a bit to focus on what is really important. Our homes have become the entertainment destination for our families and loved ones and I do not see that changing anytime soon. Because of this cocooning mentality that many consumers have today, they are investing more in their homes or going ahead with projects they may have not thought of in the past. Whether it is updating their entertainment systems, building out a new theater room, or upgrading their network, it’s all positive momentum for our industry. As I mentioned earlier, our fans look to Bowers & Wilkins to provide incredible experiences with our premium audio products and now more than ever are experiencing these things at home. Bowers & Wilkins can enhance that experience so we can safely enjoy this time at home with our loved ones.
MJ: Anything else you would like our readers to know about Bowers & Wilkins?
JK: Bowers & Wilkins doesn’t have customers, we have fans. I say fans, because it only takes a consumer looking for premium audio to hear our speakers once to become a fan. What Bowers & Wilkins is recognized for is delivering innovative products that can complete a solution and deliver an experience that our fans keep coming back for more.