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Driving business in the audio/video accessories category-primarily cable and connectors designed for digital and high-end audio and video linking-is growth in home entertainment systems and digital-device technology.
According to Eva Chen, product manager for the audio/video line at Belkin Components, a major reason audio/video is one of the hottest accessories categories this year is the "greater need for providing cost-effective and easy-to-use solutions for connecting multiple devices to televisions, VCRs and stereos, among others. With the growth of A/V component sales and continued technological improvements, including home theater and quality low-cost items such as a $150 DVD player, retailers are counting on a complete and profitable accessories mix to maintain their bottom line."
Among new A/V accessories products at Compton, Calif.-based Belkin are a 3-in-1 Selector Switch and an S-Video-to-RCA Coupler.
Available in late April, the F8V3005 3-in-1 Video Selector connects up to three A/V sources. For a suggested retail of $14.99, this device offers standard RCA connectors to make connections simple, the company said. The input-select switch lets users quickly set the input source for the television, while color-coded jacks make it easy to connect components to the selector.
Consumers who think they need to purchase a home DVD player because their televisions do not have S-Video inputs need look no further than Belkin's F8V3006 S-Video/RCA Adapter. This device allows for image transfer to televisions without S-Video inputs from laptop/desktops.
With the S-Video/RCA Adapter, users can connect S-Video and input the video signal to the television via RCA connections. Suggested retail is $9.99 and availability is mid-May.
"Current growth [in A/V accessories sales] is fueled by soaring DVD, DBS, satellite and home theater system sales," said Kent Shiplet, Jasco Products marketing and sales executive VP. "The good news for accessories suppliers and retailers is that all of the above products have to be connected."
Shiplet added, "Though the economy has slowed somewhat, we are projecting moderate growth in A/V accessories sales for 2001 for the industry, and significant growth in Jasco's GE brand. Jasco has dramatically expanded its GE A/V accessories line to provide dealers with the more sophisticated S-Video, component video and fiber-optical cables and interconnects, and video switchers required to deliver optimum performance with to-day's digital A/V equipment."
In response to changing technology and growth in the home entertainment market, Oklahoma City-based Jasco has added a 3-Device Digital Audio Selector, a 2-Way Digital Audio Optical Splitter and a Digital Audio/ S-VHS Cable to its digital device lineup.
In February, Jasco launched its Ultra Pro Grade line that includes all of the above products. The company said both the product quality and packaging reflect the increased demand for upscale lines at CE specialty retailers, as well as mass merchants.
The 3-Device Selector, AV92689, is a hub selector for digital equipment. With industry-standard Toslink connections, the product allows connection of up to three devices for output to one component, such as a MiniDisc digital player or DVD player to a digital receiver. Suggested retail is $34.99.
The Digital Audio Optical Splitter for Toslink connections provides a solution for distributing one digital audio signal to two components. Suggested retail is $11.99.
The 6-foot Digital Audio/S-VHS Cable, suggested retail $3.99, carries both digital audio and S-VHS video signals in one convenient cable and is designed for connecting DVD players to digital receivers.
Also available from Jasco are three Digital Audio Cables: AV92681, suggested retail $18.99, a Toslink-to-Toslink connection; AV92680 ($19.99), a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm mini-plug connector with a PVC jacket; and AV92682 ($19.99), a Toslink-to-3.5mm cable.
All digital cables are 6 feet long, with molded ends for strain relief and clear plastic lens protectors.
The cables provide clear transmission of audio signals and are used with devices such as DVD players, MiniDisc systems, receivers and CD players. An extension adapter extends the length of two Toslink digital audio cables.
For the many homes that have multiple game consoles, DVD or other equipment that cannot connect to the single input on one television, Jasco is offering its GE-brand Audio/ Video & Game Switch, model AV93239.
Designed to eliminate having to continually hook and un- hook equipment in order to use it, this device allows users to connect any three audio/video units, equipped with RCA-type connections, to one set of jacks on the back of the television. Consumers can set the selector switch to the desired device to be used, without having to disconnect the other devices. The suggested retail is $22.99.
According to Mark Schaffner, product development and advanced marketing manager for Thomson Multimedia's accessories and components business, "More products than ever before are interfacing-HDTV, DVD, home networking. We clearly are embarking on a new age of products designed to meet the demand of the digital market, and we are designing a practical approach to serve the aftersales market with products that will make the consumer's experience an enjoyable one.
"From a new line of digital hookups, to a new introduction of AC power-line home networking products, we expect the consumer interest level to explode over the next 12 to 24 months."
Two RCA-branded products that meet digital demands in the burgeoning A/V accessories category include the 4-Way Splitter, DT4SP, suggested retail $14.95, and the 2-Way Splitter, DT2SP, at $9.95.
Both digital splitters are a solution for multi-equipment hookup and allow the connection of two or four components with minimal signal loss.
The four-way offers two individual ground connections and four gold-plated outputs, which allow the signal to be split to four sources. The two-way offers two individual ground connections and two gold-plated outputs, which allow the input signal to be split to two sources.
"Our strategy for hookup is to provide customers with superior connectivity when 'hooking' up to their hardware," said Schaffner. "We will expand our line of product to include USB cables, FireWire, hubs, optical and switchers, to help consumers maximize their entertainment or computing experiences."
In home networking, Deptford, N.J.-based Thomson sees several options today, primarily Ethernet and wireless.
"We believe that AC power-line technology is a convenient and practical solution as well," said Schaffner. "There is no need for costly rewiring or limitations as it relates to distance for consumers to 'network' their homes.
"With the continued growth of personal computers [60 percent, and climbing], we believe the number of multi-PC-based homes will double within the next two to three years," he continued. "This represents a huge opportunity for Thomson Multimedia. We also plan to explore additional avenues of growth in this up-and-coming category."
Two hot new A/V accessories products from Clifton, N.J.-based Gemini Industries are Philips Magnavox gold cables and AC adapters available in both the Philips and Magnavox brands, according to Steve Reynolds, product manager for core audio and video accessories.
The company's M62792 Audio and S-Video Cable comes in 6-foot lengths for a suggested $24.99 retail. The Component Video Cable, M62795, also comes in a 6-foot length, but at a suggested $29.99. Availability is May.
Gemini's AC Adapters are available in a "full range of product, with 12 different plugs to fit more electronic devices than anything else on the market," said Reynolds.
The Magnavox-brand M62300, with 300 mAH, has a suggested $11.99 retail; the M62301, 600 mAH is $13.99; and the M62302, 1,000 mAH, is $16.99.
Corresponding Philips Magnavox SKUs, the PM62061, PM62062 and PM62065, have suggested retails of $11.99, $13.99 and $16.99, respectively. Availability also is May.
Looking at the available selection of A/V accessories and product relationship to sales, "today's consumer is more technically advanced," said Len Coakley, accessories VP at Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Zenith Accessories. "When you move up to digital products or a home theater system, the natural progression for supporting accessories cables and connectors aims at the high end as well.
"This certainly follows Zenith's strategy of going forward with a full line of digital television and projection television products. This is all part of the digital growth that is taking place every day," continued Coakley. "With this growth comes knowledge and understanding, which translates to buying decisions and purchases. As digital products grow, the supporting cast of high-end digital accessories and related products grows at the same logical rate."
Zenith's universal digital/satellite accessories offer color-coordinated packaging and a limited lifetime warranty on all wire and cables. The company's digital accessories, designed to complement digital technologies, include gold-plated connectors, a selection designed specifically for digital and high-end audio and video hookup, and a limited lifetime warranty on all wire and cables.
Two key Zenith A/V accessory lines include digital optical connecting cable with Toslink connectors and S-Video cable with metal-gold connectors.
The digital optical cable is available in four lengths-3, 6, 12 and 20 feet-called ZDTV122, ZDTV123, ZDTV124 and ZDTV133, respectively. Suggested retails are $19.99, $29.99, $39.99 and $59.99, respectively.
The S-Video cable comes in 3-, 6-, 12- and 33-foot lengths, called ZDTV107, ZDTV108, ZDTV109 and ZDTV132, respectively. Suggested retails are $19.99, $29.99, $39.99 and $59.99, respectively.
Brand names are critical in selling A/V accessories, said Noel Lee, who holds the title of The Head Monster at Monster Cable. "Consumers tend to trust famous brands associated with quality, and they're more likely to pay more when they have peace of mind. Famous names give the retailers more leverage to charge higher prices, with the result, higher profit."
Following its success with A/V and computer accessories, Brisbane, Calif.-based Monster has only recently entered the gaming accessories category, said Lee, and has gained a lot of its initial acceptance because of the Monster name and by leveraging its reputation for quality and performance.
"Today's consumers are looking for higher-performance accessories. They want quality," Lee stated. "Retailers want to make a decent profit. They certainly can't do that with the low margins on components and hardware.
"Retailers are no longer satisfied with selling $3, or even $10 or $20, interconnect cables, where the margins are also infinitesimal. They want to sell $50 or $60 interconnect cables and make something on the deal."
One example of a Monster product retailing for a higher price point is its GameLink 350 S-Video and Fiber Optic Audio Kit for S-Video/digital-audio hookup of PlayStation2 or a television or A/V receiver.
The product offers GameLink 300 S-Video A/V cable that provides sharper, crisper video than the standard composite cable, said the company. Included are gold contact and eight-cut turbine RCA connectors to ensure optimal A/V signal transfer.
The 3-in-1 cable design is simple to hook up and looks good, too, Monster said. Suggested retail for the GameLink 350 is $49.95.
Sony Electronics is focusing its efforts in the A/V accessories market "on an easy-to-use auto switcher and a line of compact AC power adapters that range from 100 to 240 volts," said Jim Avato, accessories division marketing manager.
"With home theater growing, Sony is focusing on products that can simplify and control many audio and video devices for the consumer," Avato said. "Most homes have TVs and DVDs, and these products need to work with each other in harmony. We are looking to enhance the operability and functionality of core audio and video products.
"As a home theater leader, we understand consumers want more functionality out of their high-tech systems, so we're specializing in accessories products that can extend the use of today's audio and home theater products."
Two A/V accessories from Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony that are designed to enhance the value, use and performance of the core products the company markets are the Auto Switcher, SBV55A, and worldwide AC power adapters such as the AC-E45A.
The auto switcher works smarter than traditional switchers and televisions, said Avato, by determining which device is in use and switching to that device automatically.
The SBV55A, $79.99 suggested retail, extends its value by transforming S-Video to composite video and vice versa, making TV viewing more enjoyable, he said. The unit offers four inputs, three S-Video, and one output, S-Video.
The AC-E45A Power Adaptor, at a suggested $29.99 retail, utilizes switching circuitry and is one-third the size of traditional AC transformer-type adapters offering worldwide power adaptability, with a rated input of 100-240V. These new, slim lightweight adapters, Avato said, are convenient to use with portable music players when users travel around the world.
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