By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Stylish and innovative design is driving the portable and home storage accessories business, with fashionable goods that address different lifestyles.
"Design concepts that meet the constantly evolving needs of a mobile and tech-centric generation" are at the center of the category's growth potential, said Scott Lempert, design VP at Roundhouse, the newly purchased division of Anaheim, Calif.-based Targus Inc.
Targus/Roundhouse will redefine one-stop shopping by merging the storage category with portable computing accessories to offer products ranging from laptop carrying cases and peripherals to digital camera cases, said Lempert.
"Portable media storage has drastically changed in the last year, with much focus put on lifestyle and demographic appeal," said Diana Hoffman, product manager for consumer electronics and computer accessories at Fellowes Manufacturing, Itasca, Ill.
"Today, personal expression and customization are more accessible through technology and retail choices," said Hoffman, who concentrates on CE portable media storage. "As a result, customers make their purchasing decisions with more thought to their own image and presentation. While they think about the latest looks and formats, they are still very concerned about the functionality of the product they choose."
Portable and home storage are all about the art of organization at Dayton, Ohio-based Mead School and Office Products Division, and the company's Laserline storage products offer stylish and innovative ways to store media, work with computers and organize technology.
"New materials, styling and innovation are what to look for in our plastic, wood and soft-sided items," said Liberty Malenich, associate marketing manager for Laserline products.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, Targus/Roundhouse will introduce five new collections to go along with the company's Sport laptop series and two cdProjects collections. Targus is officially launching redesigned digital camera cases and RAKgear backpacks. It is also offering a universal video game bag in its Odyssey line, which will be available Jan. 15 at a $49.99 suggested retail, and camera cases that range from $11.99 to $59.99 suggested retail.
In audio, the main story from Longmont, Colo.-based Case Logic will be a move to higher capacities on all CD wallets, said marketing director Marca Armstrong. "We have learned that consumers shop for CD storage by capacity," she explained. "Price is usually the second or third factor that they consider. By offering higher capacities, we're giving consumer what they have asked for-a better value [more storage] at the same price."
Case Logic capacities will start at 32 for a suggested retail of $11.99 and run up to 264 for a suggested retail of $49.99, said Armstrong. These new capacities will be available in March.
Consumers are also looking at fashion as a way to differentiate themselves from their peers in the CD storage category, she continued. "Case Logic, as a result, has placed more of an emphasis on fashion-forward designs coming into the new year. We will be launching product that speaks to the Gen Z [12-year-old] girl, on up to the tech-minded Gen-Y [28-year-old] guy."
These products will also incorporate the higher capacities, with suggested retail prices starting at $9.99 and moving up to $19.99.
"CD players have grown in demand over the past two years, with prices coming down and footprints getting smaller," said Armstrong. "Along with fashion appeal, consumers are looking for product that is other than simple black." Case Logic will answer this trend with a selection of more fashion-forward CD player cases that start at $19.99.
Ambico, a Recoton Co., Lake Mary, Fla., will introduce innovative products and designs at CES for its line of camcorder storage. The products, which reinforce the company's reputation for style and functionality, reflect the more compact size of today's camcorder models, said senior product manager Rick Gauthier.
This includes "dimensions that provide the best protective fit for equipment and smart integration of exterior pockets for maximum, convenient storage of all essential (and extra) camcorder accessories."
Ambico's bags accommodate digital cameras, mini digital video cameras and film medium cameras. The company is introducing vibrant color accents and new materials for this line.
In an original approach to digital camera bags, Ambico's new high-end, fashion-oriented Elite series uses genuine leather pointed at style and durability. Theme collections of digital camera bags at more popular price points emphasize contemporary design, high-quality durable materials, convenience of transport, and optimum storage for all media, accessories and batteries.
Ambico's photo bag introductions are featuring updated designs, materials and color.
In CD storage, youth-oriented designs and materials put a Gen-Y spin on wallets and storage albums from Jensen, a Recoton Co., Lake Mary, Fla. These include reptile skins and leather. "Our fashion sense and sturdy construction give young consumers what they need to organize, protect and carry their valuable CD collections," said Gauthier.
For the Kensington Technology Group, San Mateo, Calif., soft storage is never watered down, thanks to its CD Wetsuit. The product-which stores CDs, CD-ROMs, CR-Rs, CD-RWs or DVDs-has a padded, round-design with cushioned space and offers sleeve liners that keep CDs dust- and scratch-free. The Wetsuit, which is sold in both 12- and 24-CD sizes, features black, blue and purple colors and has a $7.99 suggested retail for the 12-CD.
Colors for storage will be available right after CES in mid-January, said Fellowes. With the success of its EXO products, the company is introducing color to the line so consumers can choose the color and design that fits their needs, personal taste and lifestyle, said Hoffman.
"Fellowes will combine lifestyle trends with portable media storage designs that address consumers and the stores they visit," she said. "As lifestyle trends and retail strategies become more targeted, we will offer products to demographic segments that have strong, yet varied tastes.
"Styles will target the young active male, the young stylish female, the trend-setting young and the established adults. In addition, this also addresses our customers' goal to offer consumers appealing products rather than a 'one-size-fits-all' line."
Hoffman pointed out that "value will continue to be an issue for today's savvy customers. Fellowes addresses value with two unique features that meet consumer demand. We offer a higher standard of capacity storage, as well as unique design structures that delivers more protection. This combination of storage and protection has been well received, which tells us that consumers will continue to seek out value."
New for 2001 at Laserline are fashion colors in the company's traditionally black molded-plastic portable storage LaserPaks. These SKUs, which will be shown at CES, are designed to meet popular color trends and coordinate with the new iMac color launch.
Colors include snow, indigo, ruby, graphite and sage for the 20- and 60-capacity CD/DVD models-a total of 10 SKUs. Suggested retails are $4.99 and $9.99, respectively, and product will hit the market in first-quarter 2001.
In home storage, Laserline has a "brand new, exciting concept," according to Malenich. "It takes the popularity of the photo-frame craze and gives you a stylish alternative to store or disguise your CDs."
The first item is the CDStudio 15-capacity, single-frame spinner that comes in two SKUs, black and honey maple. Holding one 4 x 6-inch photo, the spinner disguises 15 CDs, while showing off a user's favorite picture in a high-quality wood frame. Suggested retail is $14.99.
The CDStudio also is available in a triple-spinner version, with 4 x 6-inch photo frames on all three sides. The triple comes in three colors-black, honey maple and cherry-and holds 15 CDs. Suggested retail is $19.99.
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.