Sonos announced today that Tweeter will be carrying the eponymous product at more than 150 retail locations throughout the U.S. (mostly in the Northeast). Tweeter is now the largest retailer in the country to carry the Sonos Digital Music System, and Sonos claims a "quality over quantity" approach to signing up retail partners. Nonetheless, Sonos is on track to have 500 retail location partners by the end of 2005, the first holiday buying season that Sonos is available.
Tweeter should be a good fit for this mid-tier product: Sonos fits in between the half dozen $200 - $300 streaming music players on the market (none of which have found many buyers) and custom whole house audio systems, which start in the $2000 range with MusicCAST systems from Yamaha, but often end up costing $10,000 - $50,000 for any serious system retrofitted into existing construction by a custom installer. Sonos starts with the premise that you're already storing your digital music on a PC - why would you want to duplicate that? - but rather than simply stream the audio to a single location, Sonos provides a premium distributed listening experience akin to high end whole house audio products.
I had an interesting conversation this week with a Sonos executive. Without downplaying the Tweeter distribution relationship, Sonos is also excited about their presence at Best Buy. Oh, they couldn't get in the front door at Best Buy - and the product requires considerable explanation on the sales floor, and Best Buy's merchandising requirements aren't geared for small startups like Sonos. But Sonos is in Magnolia stores, which Best Buy bought back in 2000, and is now expanding into mini-stores within Best Buy's big box format. This provides Sonos with the best of both worlds - the traffic that a Best Buy generates with the higher sales touch of a specialty retailer. It also helps Sonos maintain its premium brand without diluting it by appearing on the mass market shelf next to a $39 DVD player.