Sonova grows retail footprint in China but steps out of a big-box deal in the US



Sonova The HQ of Sonova in Stäfa, Switzerland

Sonova has completed a move to increase its direct access to consumers in China by completing the acquisition of the HYSOUND Group, a leading nationwide hearing care chain with some 200 clinics in over 20 provinces and more than 70 cities.

And the Switzerland-based giant behind such brands as Phonak and Unitron states clearly that getting hold of HYSOUND brings it a retail business model as "a strong platform for Sonova’s further expansion in China". In 2021, the HYSOUND Group generated a net revenue of approximately €32.4m.

William YingWei Wang, founder & CEO of the HYSOUND Group commented: “We are confident of the fast growth of China’s hearing healthcare market. With the support and strength of the Sonova Group, we look forward to offering further high-quality products and professional services to new and existing consumers of the HYSOUND Group.”

Sonova withdraws its product from Costco

Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that Sonova's near-ten-year deal to sell its hearing aids through the US big-box retail chain Costco has come to an end.

Weeks after pulling its top-selling Kirkland Signature 10.0 devices from Costco shelves, Sonova has emailed its US HCPs to inform them that it will no longer offer Phonak branded hearing aids “in certain large retail chains”, reports Hearing Health and Technology Matters (HHTM). This product withdrawal also embraces Phonak Brio models.

Sonova defends traditional hearing care pathways

The Costco cut-off was a death foretold earlier in November when Sonova intimated, without naming names, that a contract with a private U.S. label would likely not be renewed.

At that moment, Reuters reported Sonova CEO Arnd Kaldowski as defending traditional non-OTC hearing care pathways for acquiring a hearing aid: "People need to spend extra effort right now in explaining why our device is better than what they hope they could get over the counter."

But Sonova is also adjusting its financial forecast ahead of what is likely to be a difficult period for most businesses, those in hearing health not excepted. The financial outlook issued by Sonova on November 14 revealed the group "expects to reach the lower end of the guidance ranges of consolidated sales growth of 15%-19% and an adjusted EBITA increase of 6%-10%for the year to end in March. This, said Sonova, "reflects the continued slowdown of the global hearing care market, indicating limited market growth for the remainder of the financial year, as well as ongoing macroeconomic challenges".

Sonova OTC product?

While other major manufacturers have already teamed up with known consumer brands to market over-the-counter devices, a Sonova entrance into the arena is yet to be announced. What might it look like?

Given the widely held belief that playing an OTC device is an inevitable step for all hearing aid producers, it is no wild imagining to envision Sonova already coming out to fight in a boxing hoody emblazoned in glittery letters spelling the name Sennheiser, the consumer division it bought in 2021. This, of course, is nothing stronger than speculation on the part of Audiology Worldnews.

Source: Reuters/Sonova/HHTM/