I can only speak for myself. The industry is doing just fine. I recently bought a new to me preamp, tone arm and cartridge, a new SUT, and six power cords. Of course it was all used so I'm not sure if that helps the hi end or not.
Yes the stock market is booming, up 22% this year in the US...the DJI.
The wealthy are benefitting, and they want more...it's a natural.
The people who acquired wisdom through the years are satisfied from contentment provided by what they have, they learned to appreciate more. They share their wealth with their families and friends, eat good, exercise, taking care of their health, protecting their sanity from taxes, and contemplating more liberating new directions with stronger values...entertainment, knowledge, mutual equality, respect, technologies that work towards better communication and environment, 'conscienciousness' of the people living in the world surrounding them.
Yes some buy hirez music, digital music downloads, Tidal and analog LPs, which are also on the rise...a good sign in this digital A.I. crazy world we are getting closer and closer to, till we lost control and robots take over where science fiction become the reality du jour.
Electric cars are also on the list of purchases. ICE cars are expensive to maintain, dirty for the system, hard for the lungs, for the insects and birds.
They say the sky is the limit; in audio where is the sky, above over the clouds from the planet burning?
I can't speak for the US, but i feel that in the UK we are at 'peak hifi', for demographic and economic reasons.
The market for high end gear is mainly populated by baby boomers, who are at the zenith of their economic power. They own large homes, have generous pensions and lots of spare time.
Whereas those that came after, generation X and millenials, are seeing their chances of home ownership receding and incomes stagnating.
Instead of nest feathering they are more likely to travel.
Moreover high end gear seems aimed at devotees of classical music and easy listening. The sort of dynamics and bass extension required to recreate the festival experience are not the priority of many manufacturers, and to achieve this one must spend huge amounts of money and have a lot of space.
As the older generation shuffle off this mortal coil i suspect there will be a glut of used high end kit offered on the second hand market.
So i predict good times ahead for those looking for pre owned bargains, but a general contraction in the high end market
It's hard to say, but things have been fine and steady for me except for a few weeks over the summer which is typical. Things are very competitive though, and if my products weren't better than most I'd be out of business quickly. Luckily, I tend to win most comparisons vs my competitors.
I sell mostly in the US but I think Europe/Asia would be a better market from the info I've received and I will make some efforts to market more overseas.
Also, I do feel direct and dealer sale are really 2 separate markets and I'm not sure how much commonality there will be. From everything I've experienced there is very little chance of a traditional buyer (buys from local dealers) even looking at direct-sale brands.