Norwich electronics retailer celebrates 50th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:36 30 June 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
From mono, through stereo and on to smart tech – a Norwich electronics seller is celebrating 50 years supplying top-quality sound to customers including industry professionals.
Livestock were still being taken to market along Ber Street when Martins Hi-Fi opened its doors in 1968.
Five decades later, the eight-strong business is still in family hands and continuing to evolve as the way customers experience music and film changes.
While hi-fi systems are still its core business, it has been selling home cinema systems for 25 years and has recently branched out into smart home technology.
It counts senior figures in the television and music industries among its customers, who travel in from around the country.
The shop has two demonstration rooms for its home cinema systems where prospective customers can experience a Dolby sound systems, one of the biggest brands on its shelves.
Elizabeth Gould, whose father opened the shop and who has worked in the family business since she was 12, said that although the £1.2m-turnover business had evolved its hi-fi offering was still “at the forefront”.
She said the way people consume music is changing, with more people searching for a better quality sound.
“There is a whole generation of people who think that listening to music through your headphones is as good as it gets,” she said.
“With the advantage of computers and mobile phones, which were not there 25 years ago, now everyone has a computer in their hand and they can access any amount of films or music and think it is sounding great.
“People are listening to music more than ever. What they listen to it on is our business, so there is always going to be a market for people who want to listen in a better way.
“For us it is about being adaptable. We are always looking for the next technology.”
General manager Marcus Harbord, who has worked at Martins Hi-Fi for 30 years, said that after a lull in popularity for home sound systems, more people were coming back to hi-fi.
He said the business’s role had shifted “from selling to consulting” for customers with a range of budgets – while the average system will cost between £2,000 and £3,000, a top-of-the-line home cinema system could set you back more than £200,000.
“On the high street the ones who evolve survive. It is the ones who offer an experience, and we can offer that,” he said.
50 years in Ber Street
Martins Hi-Fi has been based in the same premises in Ber Street since opening 50 years ago.
Owner Elizabeth Gould said the street was “more industrial” when the shop first opened, but after a chequered past, the former red light district has undergone a transformation into a retail hub.
The shop is a member of business community the Ber Street Hub, founded last year to give a collective voice to the street’s growing cluster of independent businesses.
Ms Gould said: “We are hoping we can drive more people up this way to have a look. It would be lovely to get more people using the street – it is more and more prosperous.”
The family business had a scare when its building was earmarked for demolition, as part of proposals by city planners to build a flyover across the street.
But, with the plans abandoned, the demolition order was removed 10 years ago.