Hunts top-end hi-fi firm expands globally

HUNTINGDON-based top-end hi-fi manufacturer Meridian Audio is to embark on a global expansion.

The leading audio and video systems maker will open a series of stylish boutiques in exotic locations in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Russia and South America during spring 2011 to showcase its high-performance luxury entertainment items.

Chief executive Tim Ireland said the move is designed to make its CD, DVD players and surround sound processors, which have long been enjoyed by enthusiasts, available to a wider general public.

He also hopes the Latham Road company’s new association with Range Rover is “going to increase our profile and increase our sales”.

“Meridian is already known to the enthusiast but there is a whole population out there,” Mr Ireland said.

“There is no question that, if people go into a store in a high-profile shopping area, they will see Meridian products and get more interested in the brand.”

At present, Meridian’s state-of-the-art goods, such as its latest CD player the 808.3 Signature Reference model, are mainly sold in specialist audio and video retailers.

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In total 85 per cent of its goods are exported. Locally, RS AV Solutions in Peterborough and Audiofile in Cambridge are the only stores registered to sell the products.

However, that started to change when the firm opened its first standalone boutique in Bangkok in November 2009.

Mr Ireland said the success of that store persuaded sellers in the Chilean capital Santiago to unveil a shop in September, followed by Mexico City in October and Kuwait, Taipei, New Delhi, Bangalore and Moscow this month (December).

Export sales values grew 12 per cent between 2008 and 2009, with sales rising 17 per cent in the UK during the same period and by just under 13 per cent globally.

Earlier this year, the firm also entered into a partnership with McLaren Automotive to provide sound systems for the MP4-12C supercar, with the first vehicles containing its products due to go on sale in the next 12 months.

“While our products are made in Britain with a regional workforce, we take a global view at every level of our business,” chief marketing officer Graeme Taylor explained.

“This philosophy, combined with increasing wealth in emerging markets and a growing desire for quality British manufactured products, has resulted in demand outstripping supply for our products in 2010.”

Founded in 1977 by Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd, Meridian was independent until the Muse SA group which is owned by Reinet Investments SCA, a subsidiary of Richemont, the Swiss-based luxury goods group, purchased a holding in 2007.

Today, it has become one of the most highly regarded marques in the high-end consumer electronics market.

Since the creation of the company, Meridian has won over 165 international awards for stylish and innovative products, and currently boasts six core product ranges sold in 70 countries.