Audio wearables company Nuheara (ASX: NUH) has made a bid to court the European market by extending sales of its IQbuds BOOST product into Italy.
The company said it has secured a 50-store sales trial with Vision Group, considered to be a leading optical retailer in Italy with 2,059 outlets and representing 20% of the entire Italian optical market.
Not stopping there, Nuheara has also added its IQbuds BOOST product to its existing licencing deal with European optical partner Acuitis, with 66 stores across France, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
In 2016, Nuheara released its proprietary wireless earbuds, IQbuds – allowing consumers to augment their hearing according to their personal hearing preferences and connect hands-free with their voice-enabled smart devices.
More than two years on, IQbuds are now sold in major consumer electronics retailers and professional hearing clinics around the world.
“The optical industry is embracing hearing health retailing with increasing scale and professionalism. In comparison to traditional hearing clinics, the optical retail industry is more advanced and sophisticated in the way it merchandises and markets to its customers,” said Justin Miller, CEO and managing director of Nuheara.
He added that “the stores are large and spacious with contemporary merchandising, professional sales support, and are better positioned in viable high traffic areas such as premium shopping centres and strip malls.”
According to the company, one of the features of its commercial strategy is to approach dedicated optics stores that provide services directly to consumers and provide audio products that supplement people’s existing need for improved sense perception.
The optical stores targeted by Nuheara have already invested in providing audiological services and are therefore in a good position to recommend and sell Nuheara’s multifunctional self-fitting hearing devices.
One of the caveats expected to provide strong sales momentum is that optical stores don’t have to staff their operations with dedicated audiologists or professional medical personnel to be able to stock and sell Nuheara’s IQ buds and IQbuds BOOST products.
According to Mr Miller, the cross-selling opportunity made possible by optical stores is “enormous”, and further bolstered by its products ease-of-use that forego the need for licenced professionals to actively support its products.
“Nuheara is on a mission to transform the way people hear by providing affordable and accessible hearing solutions. Put simply, optical retail is one of our most strategic partners in this pursuit. It represents a handheld consultative sale, conducted by salespeople that not only understand healthcare but more importantly are used to selling the value of it,” said Mr Miller.
“There is an age intersection with customers that need both hearing and optical support. This convergence of optical and hearing healthcare retail is growing globally and it will be a critical outlet for Nuheara’s expansion into this new channel.”
“We are looking forward to playing our part in the future of hearing retail disruption and are determined to increase the uptake in our smart hearing devices for those that previously were unable to access or afford hearing assistance,” added Mr Miller.
Additional commercial resolve
As part of its bid to expand its global sales network, Nuheara appointed former Samsung vice president, Philip Newton, to the newly created role of chief sales officer earlier this month.
Nuheara has said that Mr Newton will report directly to the CEO and will assume all responsibility for global sales, while the previous sales manager, Mr Cannington, will now move to take up the role of chief marketing officer.
One of the first orders of business for the incoming Mr Newton will be to leverage Nuheara’s recent $146,000 export market development grant (EMDG), secured upon lodging a successful appeal in response to a refusal earlier this year.
The EMDG scheme is a key Australian Federal Government financial assistance program designated for existing Australian exporters to support their early growth and development. The scheme reimburses up to 50% of eligible export promotion expenses above A$5,000 and provides up to eight grants to each eligible applicant.
Over the past 2 years, Nuheara incurred eligible EMDG expenditure which enabled the company to apply for the federal grants and means it will receive a $143,000 grant this year following the receipt of $73,440 and $72,159 respectively for the 2016 and 2017 financial years.