By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Redefining how it goes to market — in order to be in the best position when retailers make their final product cuts — Maxell Corporation of America is expanding its breadth of current merchandise, tidying up its packaging and introducing new items.
Once primarily known for its care and maintenance lineup of consumer electronics accessories, where it claims to hold a 65 percent market share, Maxell has widened its vision to include storage media, among others.
"The box is expanding," said Gordon Tetreault, Maxell's national sales and marketing manager for accessory products. "It's not just CE accessories anymore, but also the influence of small office/home office [SO/HO] and data storage on the products we carry."
The two driving forces behind Maxell's updated marketing strategy are the revolution at retail and the convergence of old-line CE products with new technologies, he said.
"Retailers are looking to consolidate their number of vendors. They want just three brands — good, better, best," said Tetreault. "One buyer is handling both accessories and media categories, and he [she] wants to deal only with three media vendors and one supplier — two tops — when it comes to accessories." Because it offers numerous accessories product categories, making it a one-stop-shop supplier, unlike its less diversified competitors, Maxell is in the best possible position to accommodate today's retailer needs, he said.
As Tetreault paints a picture of the changing accessories product guard, he underscores the importance of the collision of more traditional care and maintenance products and media storage — the old, with the new technologies. Consumers are watching television, but they're also downloading on computers. They need to clean and maintain old-line CE items, but they also want to clean and maintain plasma TV screens, discs and disc drives.
At the same time Maxell is augmenting its product selection, the company is refining its approach to packaging — something retailers demand, said Tetreault. "You have 2-1/2 seconds to sell an item, that's all consumers spend on the purchase decision."
To deal with this, Maxell has increased the size of its brand name as well as the name of the product on the package. Cleaner communication and simplification are the keys to packaging redesign, he said about the running changes Maxell will be making during the course of this year.
Using headphones as an example, Tetreault said this product often has too much information on the package. On its new line of headphones, lifestyle packaging will say just Maxell, while even the identifying words "ear buds," referring to content, come off. Packages will be color-coded based on retailer price point.
"Consumers can look at the product, see what it is. The idea is to make the product different, simplify the communication. That's what separates us," he said.
The difference in the headset is not just in the package, which features a thermoform ear that shows exactly how the ear bud fits the human ear. It is also product differentiation — such things as a mute button, which has to be continually depressed to activate conversation, and a cord that is coiled, so it doesn't hang to the knees.
"There are holes out there to fill," said Tetreault about the abundance of new product opportunities in the accessories business. Maxell is looking more overseas for non-traditional types, items that complement its overall line and fit a particular niche for retailers, he said.
One way of doing business is to pick up manufacturing and supply of an unusual item a retailer carries, replacing the original maker's or retailer's graphics with the Maxell face.
An example of a care and maintenance product where Maxell has taken over the sourcing and distribution is Canned Air, a container of compressed gas used as an all-purpose dust remover. Maxell Canned Air comes in a single 10-ounce can (CA-1) at $7.99 suggested retail, or a two-pack (CA-2) at $14.99 suggested retail. Shipping begins at the end of July.
A new product tied to budding technology is mini multi-colored jewel cases for 3-inch or 8cm discs. The 5mm case, MJC-30C, comes in blue, yellow, purple, green and red, and will ship in early July in 30-packs for a suggested $8.99 retail.
Maxell also emphasizes the need for fast response to industry requests. When retailers found 20-packs of multi-colored cases for CDs and DVDs too large in number for a single SKU, and requested a smaller-size sister product, Maxell designed a 6-pack, CD-354, which is set to ship at the end of June at a suggested $2.99.
Called Slims, the cases are said to be great for traveling. Two Slims can be stored in the same space as one standard jewel case.
Looking ahead, Maxell is planning to debut six to 12 new products as well as new packaging at the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this coming January. "New products help with significant sales of regular products," said Tetreault.
As for the accessories retail marketplace in 2001, he said, "It grew by 8 or 9 percent, while we [Maxell] grew in the high double digits." In 2002, he expects to exceed last year, both in units and dollars, by 18 percent.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.