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Citing shift to online shopping, Bose will close all of its US stores and many more elsewhere

One of Bose’s trademark products has long been its Wave music system.
One of Bose’s trademark products has long been its Wave music system. Bose

Bose Corp. plans to close all of its US stores, part of a broader move by the Framingham audio technology company to shutter a total of 119 retail locations globally as customers shift to online shopping.

The company said in a statement on Wednesday that it will no longer operate stores in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. It will keep open stores in other parts of Asia and in the Middle East. Bose would not say how many stores will remain in business, but said it has about 130 shops in China and the United Arab Emirates, and more in countries such as India.

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While the privately held company would not say how many employees will be affected, it said it will be offering “outplacement assistance” and severance.

Bose’s website lists three stores in New England: at the Burlington Mall, Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, and New Hampshire’s Merrimack Premium Outlets.

Started in 1964 by Amar G. Bose, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, Bose said last year that it had 9,000 employees around the globe. Bose, who died in 2013, passed majority ownership of the company to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, though the school does not have operational control of the company.

In a statement, Colette Burke, Bose’s vice president of global sales, said the market has changed since the company opened its first store, in 1993.

“Originally, our retail stores gave people a way to experience, test, and talk to us about multi-component, CD and DVD-based home entertainment systems,” Burke said.

“At the time, it was a radical idea, but we focused on what our customers needed, and where they needed it — and we’re doing the same thing now,” Burke said. “It’s still difficult, because the decision impacts some of our amazing store teams who make us proud every day.”

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Now, the company says it is putting its market power into online sales of products that people are more comfortable buying without hearing them first — such as noise-canceling headphones, earbuds, portable speakers, and smart home devices.

Corey Barrett, a senior analyst who follows consumer electronics and media for the research firm M Science, said the customers who really need to listen to audio products before they buy them are probably not going to stores that sell only the Bose brand.

“People who do want to hear the system prior to buying, and are at the high end of the market — true audiophiles — generally aren’t going to go to a one-stop shop like Bose,” he said. Instead, they’re probably stopping at stores where they can compare multiple products from brands such as Klipsch and Sennheiser, whose offerings are generally seen as superior to many of the products sold by Bose.

Meanwhile, Bose has become a leader in marketing its products digitally, according to the research firm Gartner Inc. A recent report by Gartner said that Bose has been very effective at reaching digital customers both on Amazon and through its own online store.

That report ranked Bose’s digital sales strategy as the third-best in the country, behind only Apple and Samsung.


Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.