By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
As accessories manufacturers gear up for 2006, a wide variety of products that derived from among nearly a dozen accessories categories is scheduled for debut over the coming months.
Although the selection pretty much follows traditional market pathways — mobility, convergence, portability and early adoption, among others — many products also have been specifically designed to accommodate retailer bundling along with “hot” consumer electronics hardware or are being marketed to take advantage of the growing number of consumers content to spend many more of their “entertainment hours” at home.
Jasco, for one, is offering “innovative” HDTV indoor and outdoor TV antennas to expand access to digital broadcast content; better/best A/V connectivity lines, including HDMI cables, to maximize digital video quality; and an expanded line of digital media card readers to include the new 21-in-one universal card reader.
Jasco is offering an exclusive line of headphones with detachable microphones that can be used with computers and portable/home audio/video equipment, 802.11n for streaming video to provide wireless entertainment to any room, and Bluetooth devices that transmit from MP3 players to home stereo systems.
To take advantage of consumer wanderlust, Jasco also is promoting products that travel well. “We live in a mobile society — one always on the go — which seeks entertainment in multiple locations. The market for products appealing to our mobile lifestyle is expected to grow by 15 percent in 2006,” said Kent Shiplet, marketing and sales executive VP.
Anticipating expanded interest in the wireless category, Thomson is introducing a new line of Bluetooth-enabled products under the Jensen brand, including universal transmitters, receivers and stereo headphones for mobile and home applications.
“Convergence products provide another growth opportunity within the accessories category as consumers with large libraries of digital video, photos and audio seek to transfer content from the PC hard drive to large-screen television sets and home-audio systems,” said Sharon Vernon, general manager/home networking accessories.
“Products such as the Acoustic Research Digital MediaBridge and similar systems should grow in popularity as consumers seek more sophisticated uses for their personal digital content,” she said.
Body Glove mobile accessories is capitalizing on recent trends by introducing products with superior styling and performance, according to maker Fellowes.
Sales of Body Glove accessories, such as phone cases and mobile headsets, have exploded by providing consumers with the ultimate fit, protection and style, said the company. “With so much focus on the consumer and product innovation, we are very enthusiastic about the CE accessory market for 2006,” said Eugene Lee, marketing director for Body Glove Accessories.
“We expect the industry to continue to trend more and more toward the portable and handheld device arena,” and expect “convergence” to be both an opportunity and challenge for all players in this space, said Andy Youngs, marketing and design VP at Case Logic.
More and more consumers are looking for one handheld device that can perform all necessary functions. “We are really looking at what consumers want from one device and how to create a case that fits all devices, ranging from MP3 players to cellphones, cameras and PDAs. As a result, portable devices will be one of our focuses in 2006, along with a new lineup of Smart Organization computer cases and light-weight DVD sleeves,” said Youngs.
The recent introduction of universal U3-based solutions, such as Store 'n’ Go U3 Smart Drive is gaining momentum as people become increasingly concerned about the security of the data stored on these devices, said Ronan Ryan, product marketing director at Verbatim.
Drives such as these that let you always have your information with you. Consumers can use it in any system and still protect the data from accidental and malicious access, said Ryan.
While early adopters are eagerly awaiting blue laser DVD storage technology, the pragmatic and conservative consumers are broadening the demand for DVD-R and RW media. Consumers are more concerned about backing up and protecting important content photos, video and personal data on media that is compatible, durable, economic, and perhaps most of all familiar.
“Products like our VideoGard media have gained widespread acceptance because these added the assurance they want of having memories for life.” said Ryan. Camcorders using mini-DVD media are becoming increasingly popular because people can go directly from the camera to the TV set-top to instantly relive and share the moments and the events. Capturing and saving personalized content is important to all of us, he noted.
Early adopters as well as pragmatic and conservative consumers almost universally now watch television on their own terms, temporarily or permanently archiving shows. ”The idea of My TV, my way can only increase the demand for the continued evolution of reliable optical storage products,” said Ryan.
Despite headwinds, CE industry holiday revenue is expected to rise 9 percent in 2005, led by MP3 players, digital cameras, wireless phones and flat-panel TVs, said Marc Sculler, president of Bell’O International.
As prices decrease, the velocity of HDTVs sold will dramatically increase. Bell’O expects a strong holiday season, as well as a solid 2006, for flat-panel TVs, and consequently strong sales of accessories products such as home-theater furniture. “As sizes of TVs grow there is an increasing need for home-theater furniture to accommodate these respective TVs, said Sculler.
“At Bell’O, we remain focused on designing innovative home-theater furniture for the growth in HDTV. We view the coming year(s) to be an exciting time for our category in both innovation and unit sales,” said Sculler.
“DVD sales will continue to grow along with sales of direct-to-DVD devices, including set-top recorders, which were up 130 percent over the previous year’s holiday season, said Mike Golacinski, Memorex president/CEO. “Direct-to-DVD camcorders now account for over 30 percent of all camcorders sold, creating an installed base for the mini-DVD format,” he noted.
“Today’s customers are savvy in quality, value and functionality,” said Marty Goldberg, Lenmar CEO. “The strong retailers will need to satisfy their customer, while keeping a lean inventory exposure.”
Consumers expect mass merchants to stock everyday accessories, such as rechargeable AA batteries and car chargers, continued Goldberg. For specific-fit batteries or power supplies, he said customers are willing to accept delivery thru a fulfillment partner. That is why a retail and e-commerce equation makes sense for the mass merchant CE retailers, he said.
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.