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Monster Cable Enters Component Audio

6/07/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Monster Cable has begun rolling out a long-awaited turnkey merchandising and sales-training program designed to reverse the fortunes of the audio-component business, which founder and self-proclaimed "Head Monster" Noel Lee said is in decline because most components are large and ugly and aren't being demonstrated properly.

The program, called the Monster Reference Home Theater Music Experience (MRHTME), is built around Monster's first audio components and first home theater furniture line.

By July, 200 AV specialty dealers with more than 300 storefronts will roll out demonstration areas dedicated to Monster's new products. The stores include Harvey, Stereo Exchange, Electronics Expo and Myer-Emco. Ultimate has tested the concept and is committed to a full rollout, Lee added.

The program is backed up with live sales training in the field and by promotions through local movie theaters near participating storefronts. The promotion will include banners and demonstrations in movie-theater lobbies and on-screen advertising that will direct consumers to a toll-free number or Web site to make an appointment with a local dealer, said Kevin Lee, retail marketing strategies director. The launch will also include consumer and salesperson incentive programs.

Two Monster-branded power amplifiers, three speaker lines, A/V furniture, and couches that vibrate to a soundtrack's bass "deliver a home theater experience that fits in people's homes and lifestyles," Noel Lee said. Stores' demo areas will "provide an experience in a spouse- and kid-friendly environment," he promised. He suggested demos of MP3 players, SACD and DVD-Audio players, and game consoles with 5.1-channel surround games to turn a home theater experience into a "home entertainment experience."

"The audio component industry largely has not made the lifestyle shift," contributing to rising demand for more elegantly styled and lower profit home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems that deliver "good enough audio," Noel Lee told TWICE. Although many dealers had created lifestyle areas to demonstrate complete component-based home theater systems, "people rejected components in those lifestyle settings," Lee continued. "Then HTiBs went into those settings."

Under the program, dealers will dedicate one demo room to Monster equipment and one space on the main sales floor to other Monster equipment. It's up to dealers to determine the number of Monster systems that would be demonstrated in each space, but Lee cautioned that too many products on display would detract from the lifestyle experience. The company will use demographic information to suggest recommended systems for each storefront.

With the demonstrated systems, dealers would choose their own video displays and home theater audio processors.

Asked where dealers would find the space for a dedicated Monster room, Lee pointed to "dormant" two-channel audio rooms "that don't produce" and became "very profitable" in stores that tested the program.

Although it's designed to sell Monster components and furniture and will boost Monster's cable sales, the program "will grow the [audio component] pie," Lee promised. "In the stores where we tested it, A/V receiver sales went up," he said.

Monster's audio components and furniture aren't cheap, but Lee contended that "people will pay if it's a lifestyle decision." He pointed to plasma TV sales as proof. Many of these consumers aren't interested as much in picture quality as in the fact that flat-panel displays can be hung on a wall, he said.

To that end, Monster said it developed three elegant-looking speaker lines and companion furniture that hides Monster's amps and subwoofers and other manufacturers' equipment. Equipment credenzas, for example, include IR repeater systems so all equipment can be controlled even if the equipment is behind closed doors.

The top speaker and furniture series, called Eleganza, includes three plasma-TV "picture frames" embedded with drivers in a line-array configuration on the left, top and right. They're sized for 40-, 50-, and 60-inch displays and are priced from $3,000 to about $7,000. Also included: three line-array towers from 5- to 7-feet-tall priced up to $5,999/pair in aluminum and wood. An optional subwoofer module can be attached to each tower. The series also includes a pair of furniture-look subwoofers with hand-rubbed finishes.

The speakers match four Eleganza-series credenzas, also with hand-rubbed finishes at $2,999 to $8,999.

The black Centra series of speakers and consoles costs about 30 percent less but still features line-array speakers. The entry-level Cinerama series features THX Select-certified speakers.

Each speaker and furniture series can be mated with two Monster Power amps, a three-channel model at $2,995 and a two-channel model at $2,499.

Recommended Eleganza systems range from $4,999 to $49,199. Centra systems are $4,499 to $28,449, and Cinerama systems run $14,499 to $21,699.