San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
The quickening pace of home office/small office installation-along with growing household purchases of a first, or even a second, computer-is boosting sales of computer accessories.
Along with such home office stalwarts as power protection, cables and keyboard devices, computer accessory "necessities" are gaining popularity through expanding in-store availability and online sales.
Today, the offering of non-plug-in computer-accessory "soldiers"-which range from cleaning and maintenance products to ergonomics, CD label makers and pads-is as deep as it is wide.
A number of accessories makers pride themselves on the breadth of their basics lines for computer users. For example, the InterAct-brand umbrella from St. Mary, Fla.-based Recoton Corp., includes the new InterAct Maintenance Series of Clean Mates canned air, cleaning wipes, CD laser lens cleaners and dust covers for suggested retail prices of $3.99 to $14.99; the CD Label Kit and CD Label Refill, targeted to hit the $19.99 retail price point; and InterAct Dust Covers, ranging from $3.99 to $7.99.
"Our accessories create a vibrant feel that reflects the strong trend toward color prevalent in today's fashion, home decor and consumer products," said InterAct senior product manager Lisa Turner. "InterAct blends color, form and function into visually pleasing, user-friendly products. Even consumers who can't afford to upgrade their computer can brighten up their workstation with these accessories."
To aid the retailer, new InterAct packaging features updated colors, graphics and typefaces designed to pep up shelf appeal. The company said it makes in-store merchandising easier with its uniform packaging size that creates a visually unified display.
When it comes to product licensing as a boost to consumer sales, computer accessories are often given short shrift. One exception is a new Harry Potter line of computer and audio accessories that includes mousepads. Developed by Computer Expressions, based in Philadelphia, and licensed by Warner Brothers Consumer Products, the mousepad series first shows the Hogwarts seal against a background of the Hogwarts school castle.
A second pad depicts Harry and his first-year classmates approaching Hogwarts by boat. A third design features Harry grabbing the Golden Snitch during a Quidditch game.
Each of the mousepads, which have a suggested $12.50 retail, includes a nonskid natural rubber base and a fully washable soft cloth surface permanently imprinted to give years of use.
Ongoing growth in notebook computers has opened the doors of convenience for the traveling user, as well as temptation for the ever-watchful thief. To cut down on notebook theft, San Mateo, Calif.-based Kensington Technology Group offers a motion-detecting alarm called SonicLock.
The product, which attaches to a carrying case or directly into the security slot on most notebook computers, includes a three-digit user-programmable combination keypad, warning light and audible alarm for a suggested $39.99 retail.
Kensington is also offering a stylish method to exhibit digital images away from the computer with its first line of digital frames, called the Digital Photo Album and Digital Photo Album Plus. Images can be downloaded via the USB port, then units are unplugged from the computer and set anywhere users want. Available this fall, the Digital Photo Album stores 12 images for a suggested $299 retail, while Digital Photo Album Plus stores 24 images for a suggested $399.
Computer accessories are being given a rest by Compton, Calif.-based Belkin Components-a rest for the wrist, that is. The company's wrist-resting product line, called WaveRest, features a patented wave design that offers a "dip" in the center. The dip, Belkin said, provides an even, comfortable rest for the wrist.
The line includes wrist rests in five colors, mousepads, and a new product that is simply a gel cushion that can be used with a phone, calculator or at any time a wrist needs a rest. The gel wrist rests have a suggested $9.99 retail, which according to the company are the least expensive of all gel products available.
For people on the go who need an AC outlet for their CE products, American Power Conversion (APC), based in West Kingston, R.I., has come up with a "little brick" that turns an automobile cigarette lighter into an AC outlet for a laptop computer.
This compact, 75-watt DC/AC power inverter for the business traveler, called the APC Travel Power, weighs less than 1 pound and allows users to remain productive whether in the air or on the road. It also eliminates the need to carry backup batteries.
Travel Power plugs directly into a car's cigarette lighter and uses the vehicle's battery as a power source. During flight, the unit uses the in-flight seat connector as a power source. It is compatible with any notebook and has a $79.99 suggested retail. Shipping in North America begins in the fourth quarter.
"The increasing number of worldwide business travelers, coupled with the need for high availability, makes the Travel Power a must-have power solution," said Joe Loberti, general manager of APC's Consumer Network Solutions Group, which promises convenience in ensuring networking solutions for the professional.
Because PCs are getting less expensive as the seasons go by, home owners often are adding a second unit to the family lineup. "Our [accessories] sales complement this rise in hardware sales," said Mark Naidoff, VP/general manager for computer and consumer electronics accessories at Itasca, Ill.-based Fellowes Manufacturing Co.
"Overall, the trend in the [computer accessories] category is positive, with retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart allowing additional space for these products," said Naidoff.
Display space for the accessories category in the mass merchants has risen from 5 feet to 10 feet, and from 10 feet to 20 feet most recently, he said. Ergonomic products, such as gel wrist rests-a mature category for Fellowes-are growing at 20 percent year over year.
Addressing the hot products at Fellowes, Naidoff said that as more people are burning CDs, the media labeling business-only about 18 months old-is "on fire." Fellowes offers software to generate labels, as well as an applicator to label CD-Rs. The label kit retails for suggested prices of $19 to $24.99. "We expect this product to continue to be hot right into the holiday and next year," said Naidoff.
With the purchase of Concept Kitchen earlier this year, Fellowes offers a full line of PDA accessories. Among five new products for PDAs is WriteRight, designed specially for the Palm IIIc. This is a clear, microthin PDA screen overlay that protects against smudges, dirt and screen scratches while improving handwriting and reducing glare, the company said. WriteRight comes 12 to a pack at a suggested $24.99 retail.
Fellowes offers three choices of stylus pens: PDA StylusPEN, Slimpoint StylusPEN and Premier StylusPEN. Each is a multifunction pen and stylus in a single, ergonomically designed unit. With one click, each transforms from a stylus to a pen and is refillable with a standard ink cartridge. Suggested retails for the three, which support all touch-sensitive handheld computers, range from $6.99 to $24.99.
When it comes to ergonomics in computer accessories, Bellingham, Wash.-based Allsop is going all out to meet OSHA recommendations for preventing and reducing repetitive stress injuries.
For example, a new mousepad, called The Wedge, offers an angled mousing surface that optimizes wrist comfort and action. Allsop said its product makes is easy to customize the degree of angle by simply revolving the circular mouse pad for an individual fit.
The Wedge comes with a black base and an image of a ripple effect on water on its blue mousing surface. It is being introduced at Comdex and has a suggested $14.99 retail.