By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Facing flat sales and retailers who are cutting back on SKUs, radar detector suppliers are responding with increasingly competitive lineups that offer more features at lower prices.
Suppliers are also adding more "extras" to their lines at CES, including the first radar detector with GPS technology from Uniden (shown as a mock-up). Other new features this year include NOAA weather alert, digital compasses and improved sensitivity.
"The emphasis now is more on margin over volume," said Beltronics sales and marketing VP Donal Rich. "I believe the industry is in a state of transition. Retailers are in a mode of reducing their SKUs, and there's more focus on average selling price. We're going to hit our numbers with fewer SKUs and higher selling prices."
Uniden product planning manager Jim Cassidy said that for the first half, his company is focusing on features for the price point but will stress innovation in second-half 2001. To that end, the company will show a mock-up of a detector with GPS technology at CES and will disclose more information on that technology at the show.
Tony Mirabelli, Cobra's senior VP of marketing and sales, said his company is positioning its radar detectors as complete highway safety systems, with a continued focus on extra features such as 10-channel NOAA weather alert.
At CES, Beltronics will launch a new value-priced line called the Express Series. The company claims improved performance due to several technology upgrades, including a new low-noise frequency-stabilized oscillator that improves detection range and band identification, and reduces false alerts. Also new is a Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) detection diode (instead of silicon) for better signal-to-noise ratio and doubling of the detector sensitivity. It is available on the two top-of-the-line units.
The Express Series includes four new models, leading with the E906CS at a new low suggested retail price point for Beltronics at $99.95. It has All Band radar and laser detection, including 360 Laser, VG2 Guard and SWS (which warns drivers of road hazards or traffic accidents on the road ahead) in a small size with a high-intensity LED display.
The step-up model E916CS adds a digital display information center and 10 voice warnings at $129.95. The next product in Beltronics' line, the E926CS, adds the GaAs diode, plus 69 voice warnings and dual-city mode at $149.95. At the top of the line is the E936CS, which adds a high-intensity text display at $169.95.
Cobra is introducing three new models, including the first radar detector with 10-channel NOAA weather access. Called the 9220WX, the new nine-band detector allows users to set the unit to automatically hear NOAA weather warnings as they are issued.
The ESD-9220WX also includes the standard eight-band monitoring system (X, K, KA, VG-2, Ultra Lyte Laser, LTI 20-20, ProLaser, ProLaser III), plus Safety Alert and Strobe Alert. It is expected to ship in the second quarter at a suggested retail price of $189.95.
Debuting at the top of the line is the XR-1050, which has a new DigiView Data Display that gives a readout of all data received by the system. The XR-1050 also has a digital signal processor and a new high-speed RISC digital processor to improve sensitivity. According to Cobra, it virtually eliminates false alerts.
The XR-1050 is expected to ship in first-quarter 2001 at a suggested retail price of $399.95.
Also new from Cobra is the model ESD-9150, which has a built-in electronic compass that consists of four LEDs that provide eight-point directions (N, S, W, E, NW, NE, SW, SE). The ESD-9150 is expected to ship in second-quarter 2001 at a suggested retail price of $139.95.
Uniden said it is stressing compact design, as well as new technology, with a new, three-model line of radar detectors. The new models detect the X, K, KA, VG2, Laser, Ultralyte Laser (L2) and Pro Laser 3 guns, as well as SWS. Called the LRD937, LRD957 and LRD967, they have a highway/city switch, seven audio and visual alerts, and audio mute.
Uniden's step-up model LRD957 adds a numeric signal-strength meter and memory retention, while the top-of-the-line LRD967 adds an advanced voice-alert system with 64 hazard warnings. The LRD937, LRD957 and LRD967 ship in March 2001 at estimated retail prices of $49.99, $79.99 and $99.99, respectively.
SK Global America is introducing an Early Warning Safety Warning System (SWS) receiver. Called the LRD-7070, it uses a digital voice and a text display to warn drivers of hazards such as emergency vehicles and railroad crossings.
The unit features 64 SWS messages divided into five categories-Highway Construction/Maintenance, Highway Hazards Zone Advisory, Weather Related Hazards, Travel Information/Convenience and Fast/Slow Moving Vehicles-to help motorists make informed decisions while driving. The LRD-7070 also comes with an electric compass, and when switched on, it issues the message, "Welcome. Buckle your seatbelt."
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.