Rancho Mirage, Calif. — The Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) buying group is developing a new set of technology, staffing and marketing standards that all group members will eventually be required to meet.
HTSA is calling its 2008 theme "evolution" and began working on it at this week’s event, here.
Other highlights of the event included a panel discussion with custom builders about their relationships with A/V subcontractors; workshops designed to help reach the group's targeted
; and a series of sessions devoted to marketing, public relations and advertising.
The group's 11th annual spring event is intended to provide relationship-building opportunities and to encourage the exchange of ideas and information between vendors and members. This year's event is called "The Dotty Do In The Desert" and it is being held here at the Westin Mission Hills Resort.
The group's focus on evolution appears to be part of an approach for long-term survival in an industry where many traditional retailers are taking a hit. In an interview, the group's executive director Richard Glikes told TWICE that the group's first quarter was "challenging," and that in general its numbers were "off about 5 percent." Similarly, the group's final accounting for last year left it "down a little," according to Glikes.
He did say that while the group's business overall may be down slightly, its custom installers' businesses are not. Also, Glikes attributed the current challenges to "consumer confidence with retail," which he expects to eventually "tick up again."
The silver lining of the current difficult environment for dealers, according to Glikes, is that "it is a time to take share."
Last week the group announced that it had added three new members, all custom installers. This week Glikes told TWICE that approximately 20 of its 63 members are install-only operations rather than traditional retailers. Looking ahead, Glikes said "We'll add more installers than retailers over time. You can do a lot of business without a storefront. The business has changed."
Glikes used this week's event as an opportunity to lay out his goals for the group this year. In an opening address on Tuesday, Glikes said he'd like to:
"Focus our members businesses on our group vendors by setting and enforcing performance standards to measure member support;
"Utilize HTSA supported sales training to improve the sell through of products and services by increasing the selling skills of our retail and custom sales staff;
"Continue the cross pollination of best practices among members by continuing and expanding HTSA idea-sharing events and meetings;
"Increase the financial strength and acumen of the membership [in an effort to attain] more profitable and well-run businesses; and
"Focus on developing our position in the luxury market by providing premium marketing and customer experiences."
This week the group will take a significant step ahead in its focus on the luxury market in a session to be led by Milton Pedrazza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, a research group focused on the high net-worth individuals market. According to Glikes, Pedrazza will help HTSA's vendors and members to develop standards in areas like technology, staff and marketing so that the group might have a more uniform approach to help it reach its desired luxury customers.
Glikes said that these standards will be refined and published and he expects members will have to adhere to the resulting standards by approximately the fourth quarter of this year or the beginning of next year in order to remain in good standing with the organization.
Even without these standards, Glikes shared an example of how the group's attempts to reach this discerning category of customers are taking the desired effect. The organization launched a private-label magazine called HD Living last fall which was direct-mailed to wealthy consumers. According to Glikes, a survey of members has shown that 26 percent have experienced direct sales from readers of the magazine after only two issues. Glikes said the third issue will mail in May to approximately 260,000 of its target consumers.