By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
A growing assortment of consumer electronics products — including hardware and CD, DVD and CD-R media — has increased retail demand for both larger size and wider variety in portable and home storage products.
To meet consumer needs, makers are providing an ever-increasing selection of bags, cases and racks, as predominant changes for 2002 center around the introduction of new constructions and colors.
"We've seen a number of new trends emerging on both the portable and home storage fronts," said Julie Hermes, marketing manager at the Dayton, Ohio-based Laserline division of The Mead Corp.
"On the [soft] portable side, the need for increased capacity continues to be one of the biggest issues, and [prompts] a continuous change in Laserline products. In terms of color, although basic black still appeals to the widest audience, there is also a push for some fashion-oriented products that add a little fun and creativity, while maintaining a broad appeal," said Hermes. "And the increasing need for DVD storage is evidenced by the amazing growth of DVD players — the fastest growing technology ever.
"There also is an increased need for multimedia storage," continued Hermes. "As consumers make the switch from VHS to DVD, and also look to house their CD collection, home storage units must address the growing need for storing a variety of sizes and shapes."
Building upon the success of its EVA line of portable storage products, Laserline is introducing EVA2 for 2002. The product incorporates the protection of sturdy molded e.v.a. construction, adding edgy, two-toned stylish designs and increased capacities. The color combinations of shiny metallic blue/matte silver and matte silver/matte charcoal are available in four SKUs each — both CD wallets and a portable CD player carrier with headphone storage and a shoulder strap.
New EVA products, which will be in stores by the spring of 2002, include a 32-CD Wallet at $12.99 suggested retail, a 64-CD Wallet at $17.99, a 120-CD Wallet at $24.99 and a Portable 32-CD Player Carrier at $17.99.
"We keep an eagle eye on trends in media storage," said Bennett J. Beer, president of Philadelphia-based Computer Expressions. Beer notes two important factors — the first is a move toward unusual materials and fashionable colors in home or standing storage. "In the past, consumers have been given a choice between chrome and black in CD racks."
Computer Expressions has gone beyond such staid choices by introducing its Mod Tower — standing storage in a sleek and colorful retro design that holds 24 CDs and "looks great in any space, from dorm to home to office," said Beers. The company's Spiral Tower, with dual-colored liquid spirals suspended on walls of clear plastic, gives the look of stained glass to a rack that holds 24 CDs.
A second trend hot for this coming year is metallic colors, said Beers. "Late in 2001, several of our silver SKUs took off in sales. We quickly added copper, gold and other metallic offerings to some of our existing lines and brought on a few new all-metallic lines."
Suggested retail for a Mod Tower CD Holder is $20, a Spiral Tower CD Holder is $25 and the Audiopod CD Wallets are $7.50.
"Consumers are seeking new and innovative ways of storing DVDs, CDs and CD-Rs," said Jeff Fine, product manager at Itasca, Ill.-basedFellowes. "They are looking for items they can identify with and that show a sense of style."
This year, Fellowes is unveiling a new product line called Bow. The Bow series provides consumers with "style and function," said Fine. The Bow has a minimalist design and can rest on a flat surface or mount on a wall. Made of metal, each product in the Bow series is two tone, with brushed silver and an accent color such as black or blue. A 20 CD Bow or 40 slim has a suggested $14.99 retail. A 25 DVD Bow has a $19.99 suggested retail.
In portable storage, Fellowes is focusing on offering solutions for active and style-conscious consumers. "We are not only offering increased capacities as a way to address the need for more storage, but are also offering designs that target reflected demographic groups," said Diana Hoffman, product manager.
Building on the success and innovation of the products introduced last year, CDProjects, a Targus company, is introducing three new lines of CD cases that will "prove functional, durable and stylish for the New Year," said Scott Oshry, Targus vice president.
New Sport, a version of the original Sport Line CD wallet, gains an updated and more contemporary look, while maintaining its signature base of black. The line will be constructed from diamond nylon as well as from PVC and real neoprene. The blending of these materials "communicates the convergence of fashion and functionality," said Oshry, "and is a perfect option for males and females looking for trendy CD storage options without compromising style and price."
Jelly Cases, designed for younger girls, will be square, with a black and white CDProjects logo. These will be available in a very bright blue, purple, green and orange with matching zipper webbing and zippers. The simple shape does not suggest CD storage, but rather the look of unique boxes or small cases.
"With notebook computers and hand-held PDAs, portable audio and digital imaging devices — all the accessories that travel with them, plus files, papers and books — business people and travelers are often carrying more than ever," said Michael Hess, president of Henrietta, N.Y.-based RoadWired. "And they are clearly looking for ways to carry everything efficiently, comfortably and safely, while adhering to tightened travel restrictions.
"Consequently, one of the most significant general trends in portable storage and carrying solutions has been the increase in 'technology-specific' backpacks and rolling cases coming to market," said Hess.
RoadWired's new entry in this category is its Digital Daypack, an expedition-grade backpack built around a notebook computer support and protection system. The unit offers 12 compartments and pockets, and is made of heavy-duty nylon, with a water repellant jet-black finish.
Attached inside the back of the main compartment is the laptop suspension system, which comprises a padded sleeve with vertical and horizontal adjusters that provide a snug fit for any size notebook computer.
Other spaces include a large accessory compartment with two zippered storage pockets, elasticized organizer for disks and pens, business card window and key clip. There is also a separate exterior pocket for a portable CD player or other small items. Suggested retail is $169.95.
"Going forward, we believe that 2002 will bring a continuation of color in CD storage," said Michael Betesh, president of New York-based Motion Systems. "The market for 24- and 48-capacity CD wallets will be very strong. The unique colors and shapes will allow consumers to satisfy their changing desires on a regular basis and establish repeat business.
"We are seeing the establishment of round and oval shapes, which are different from the traditional square and rectangular shapes in the market," said Betesh.
Motions Systems expects the shine and reflective quality of its Steel fabric in its Steel line will offer strong retail appeal. The line consists of cases holding 24 CDs at $8.99 suggested retail, 48 CDs at $14.99, 64 CDs at $14.99, 96 CDs at $17.99, 216 CDs at $24.99 and a 24-piece CD player case at $14.99. These will be available in the first quarter of 2002.
With DVD players selling for under $100 at the low end and reaching $300 for high-end models, Atlantic is making available nearly 30 different home storage units in varying sizes, materials, colors and tastes.
Colors of the future are black and silver, said the Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based company. The company is offering a mix of materials that allows more flexibility and provides unlimited choices to consumers. These include plastic, wire, wood, aluminum and steel in a variety of colors.
New from Atlantic is its Babel, multi-media home storage that accommodates up to 270 CDs, 140 DVDs or 64 VHS tapes. The aluminum tower, with silver and translucent black, retails at a suggested $119.95.
Another home-storage company, Denver-based ProLine, is introducing two newly designed disc storage/selector units. The Select-A-Disc 12 offers automatic disc selection at the touch of a button for 12 discs, while the ProLine Select-A-Disc 60 provides storage and disc selection for up to 60 discs.
By simply positioning a built-in selection dial to any specific indexed disc, the Select-A-Disc units automatically open the locking covers and lift up the desired disc. Suggested retail is $12.95 for the 12-disc and $21.95 for the 60 disc.
Looking to lead the CD storage revolution, the Scosche line of SoundKase Urban cases offer advanced and revolutionary designs, according to the company. The Urban line, constructed with "leading-edge, energetic exterior designs," features molded shock absorbing, full-grip spines, titanium reflective design accents, fun and durable colored V-suede materials, custom SoundKase ergo zipper pulls and dyed polypropylene CD pockets — all at "killer competitive" prices, said the company.
The Oxnard, Calif.-based Scosche claims the Urban cases are "so cool, so legendary, we had to give them a.k.a.'s," said Michael Bennett, SoundKase sales manager. "With names like Blade, Grip, Wishbone and Scream, you know and expect the designs and materials to lead the CD storage revolution," said Bennett.
Suggested retails are $12.95 for both the 24-folder Blade and Grip, $14.95 for the 36-folder Wishbone and $29.95 for the 100 CD folder Scream.
To reinforce its brand identity,Ambico, a Recoton company, is launching coordinated collections of bags and multi-purpose cases — fitting most everything from the smallest camera size to the largest camcorders. Like a line of luggage, each collection will have a specific design to create a "stylish, unified" look.
"The new collections allow consumers to buy bags and cases that meet their various storage needs, with the added value of a designer element. All pieces in each collection match each other in terms of style, materials and details," said Rick Gauthier, senior manager of product development at the Lake Mary, Fla.-based company.
"Anyone can create a line of bags to carry equipment. Our goal has always been to go above and beyond what is expected and provide the consumer with the ultimate in style and protection," said Crystal Teicher, creative director for the Photoco division of Samsonite.
Samsonite Worldproof photo storage systems are designed to provide maximum protection and customization for photo/video equipment. The Worldproof series is available in many sizes, with suggested retails ranging from $12.49 to $107.99, according to Solon, Ohio-based Samsonite.
"Big, bigger, biggest" are the words used by Kirk Lamar, manager of strategic development at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Boltz. The company, which makes home storage only, offers product that is "infinitely expandable," he said. "Typical customers start with our No. 1 selling rack, the MM252, which is designed to hold all mediums — DVD, CD and VHS — then the rack keeps growing as their collection grows."
Boltz's newest product, called the TVX, is a TV stand designed to hold new HDTV units. It features open architecture and solid-steel design, and supports up to 350 pounds.
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.