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Calacci Joins New Asian TV Startup

4/04/2005 01:30:00 PM Eastern

MAHWAH, N.J. – Rick Calacci, formerly U.S., Canada and Latin America sales and account development VP with Thomson, has joined a start up high-end flat-panel TV company called HANNspree California as sales and marketing senior VP for the Americas, effective April 4.

HANNspree, which will be given a formal U.S. introduction in several weeks, will specialize in LCD televisions featuring unique styling concepts and materials including models designed around a variety of themes, such as major sports and affiliated teams, whimsical creations including animals, fruits, and flowers, and characters and licenses popular with young children.

"We are designing TVs targeting every room for every house of every consumer that's out there," Calacci explained.

Distribution will begin in mid-summer to late fall using a mixed strategy employing direct-to-consumer HANNspree boutique stores, an e-commerce site and a "high-end catalog," in addition to retail distribution targeting both traditional and non-traditional CE channels.

HANNspree, which is part of a five-company Taiwanese conglomerate including the major LCD panel manufacturer Hannstar, will look to pioneer new distribution practices in the U.S. for its unusual lines.

Y.C. Wang, the chairman of Hannstar and one of the world's richest people according to a Forbes magazine's ranking, initiated the HANNspree company three years ago in order to "build a brand" around the core competency of the Hannstar company. To differentiate the line from the legions of Asian flat-panel TV vendors attempting to enter the U.S. market, HANNspree employed "some of the top design companies throughout the world," to develop the product, Calacci said.

Cabinets for the televisions will be crafted using unusual materials, such as flat-panel TVs sheathed in real basketball and baseball leather. The latter will add authentic-looking stitching.

HANNspree will look to leverage licenses from pro sports leagues and teams, Calacci said, as well as Disney, Warner Brothers and other major licensors of whimsical and kids designs.

"For the most part, everyone's LCD TVs look alike. They are all square and flat. HANNspree's vision is to develop TV displays with a 360 difference in look and feel," Calacci said. "Y.C. [Wang] also wanted his products to be fun."

In addition to unique cosmetic designs, the company will offer more traditional looking products as well, Calacci said.

Calacci, who is based in Lincolnshire, Ill., will work with a sales and marketing team based in Mahwah, N.J., featuring Michael Amkreutz, who will serve as HANNspree marketing and product development VP. Amkreutz will continue to hold a similar title with Proview Technology, which is not affiliated with HANNspree.

Initial shipments will include "north of 150 models" of LCD TVs. First shipments will include screen sizes ranging from 10- to 23W-inches, but "in Q4 there will be many more screen sizes to come," Calacci promised.

Pricing "will be competitive within the realm with which it competes, and will be consistent across all channels," Calacci said, explaining that HANNspree products will compete against tier-one LCD TV brands like Sharp and Sony.

But Calaaci added, "We aren't just making products for the rich and famous, because that's not where this product is going to be priced."

Suggested retail prices from one sample line range from $399 for a 10-inch 4:3 model to $1,299 for a 23W-inch high definition unit. Cosmetic details will be announced later.

In addition to LCD TVs the company will carry a full line of matching accessory items, including remote controls, Calacci said.

The products will use very high-quality panels and materials, including Super IPS (in-plane switching) technology, and are expected to deliver performance that meets or exceeds those of tier-one brands, Calacci said.

Components for the sets will be supplied by numerous factories, but final assembly for all HANNspree models initially will come from a single Taiwan factory, he said.

HANNspree, which is currently retailing lines through its boutique stores in Taiwan, including a flag-ship in Taipei, will launch three U.S. boutique stores this year. Store locations will include Beverly Hills and a U.S. flagship venue in San Francisco's Union Square. Calacci said a New York shop is also planned, although the exact timing and site have not been determined.

The merchandising approach for the boutique stores will be modeled after Apple's stores, which serve both as product showcases and actual selling environments, the company said.

Calacci said Wang's initial vision for HANNspree's distribution practice was to only retail products directly through company-run outlets. However, Calacci was brought in to expand that reach to other retailers, particularly non-traditional venues, after realizing the unique opportunities the TVs present.

General retail distribution will target value-added retailers stressing non-traditional channels. Initially targeted accounts include specialty gadget chains such as Hammacher Schlemmer and Sharper Image. Also cited are upscale department stores, various sporting goods stores, home fashions stores, and toy and baby stores.

CE retailers from big-box national chains to A/V specialty accounts will also be included, Calacci said, adding that the company has not yet determined if it will use two-step distribution in addition to its direct retail operations.

The company is still formulating a strategy for building brand awareness, Calacci said.

"I can tell you that retailers will be first and foremost in telling the HANNspree story," Calacci said, adding that "every product we sell will be dealer-agreement driven, and there will be a closely monitored e-commerce policy to manage all of Internet business."

Calacci, who has an extensive background in television sales, was hired to direct the retail distribution operations. Prior to joining Thomson, he had been president of Moxell Technology, before that company lost its Motorola branding and was absorbed into the IT operation of parent Proview as a CE sales division. He had also been Sharp's Consumer Electronics Group general manager and senior VP and directed sales for Toshiba Consumer Products Americas.

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