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Ex-Recoton Execs Resurrect Dual Brand

4/21/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Startup Namsung America, headed by the executive team that left Recoton Audio late last year, has resurrected the Dual Audio brand after a decade-long absence in the U.S. market.

The high-end name will appear on popularly priced home speakers, autosound equipment and marine sound systems shipping this month. The name will eventually be expanded to other consumer electronics products, beginning in a few months with a 12/110-volt DVD-in-a-bag system, said president Jim Braun, former president of Recoton Audio. The company will then add other products, including video displays, to transform the brand into a "broad-based consumer electronics brand," he said.

Several retailers, including three national chains, have already committed to offering the brand's initial lineup, he said.

Other former Recoton executives at Namsung America include Clyde Podraza, executive VP of sales and marketing; Matt Vinson, senior VP of product planning and procurement; and two sales VPs, Bill Brossard and Jamie Walt.

Namsung America was incorporated in January as a subsidiary of Korea-based Namsung Corp., a publicly traded $220 million company that manufactures autosound head units on an OEM basis for multiple U.S. aftermarket suppliers, including Recoton's Jensen brand. Namsung also markets autosound under its own name in Korea.

Braun said Namsung wanted to market products directly in the United States and approached him to lead the effort.

Namsung is also a prime manufacturer of computer speakers, LCD screens for PCs and for car video systems and the components used in building these products. It also operates its own R&D facilities and sells autosound equipment to DaimlerChrysler and Citroen.

The parent owns the rights to the Dual brand in North America, Australia and most of Asia, but not in Africa or Europe, Braun said.

The Dual brand is widely recognized for its turntables, but high-end CD players, receivers and hi-fi VCRs were also sold under the Dual name in the United States. In fact, the brand was the first to offer a hi-fi VCR, Namsung claimed.

In Europe, Dual-branded turntables are still marketed by Schneider Electronics, a major CE supplier.

In the United States, Namsung America began in March to ship autosound products and will begin in April to ship home speakers, "with many other projects scheduled for fall and next year," Braun said.

Among more than 40 car products in the initial lineup, head units are "go" priced from less than $100 to more than $200; car amplifiers are priced from less than $100 to $200; and speakers are mostly less than $100 per pair. Enclosed subwoofers are less than $100. Among more than 24 home speakers, Namsung America will offer indoor/outdoor models from $29 to more than $100 per pair, bookshelf and floor-standing speakers at $39 to "a couple hundred dollars" per pair; and powered subwoofers from $100 to $200. The lineup also includes home theater speaker packages from less than $100 to $400 (including powered sub) and club-style home speakers. The car and home speakers are not manufactured by Namsung.

Namsung America is also developing private-label programs for retailers.

In CE channels, Namsung is "mainly" targeting appliance/electronics and electronics stores, Braun said. The company, however, is also targeting automotive chains. In fact, the three national retailers that have already committed to Namsung include an automotive chain, and "you'll see us in more than one [automotive chain]," Braun promised.

Other Namsung targets include regional and local electronics and appliance/electronics retailers and marine dealers. Targeted 12-volt dealers offer installation, he noted.

To support the sales effort, the company has tapped select local distributors to reach local electronics stores, and the company will hire manufacturers' reps to work with the company's internal sales force, Braun said.

For its dealers, Namsung will deliver high-value products with attractive cosmetics, Braun contended. Consumers ages 34 and up "have some level of familiarity" with the Dual's brand's name and reputation for quality and high-level German engineering, he said. Younger consumers will be attracted to the car products' "breakthrough cosmetics and feature-value strength," he said. Namsung will also benefit from its marketing partnership with key retail accounts whose many storefronts will help drive awareness, he added.

"We're working with retailers to develop programs, including co-op programs, to help get the word out," Braun said. "As the brand rolls out, we'll do our own over-the-top pull-type marketing."

Namsung is launching the Dual brand during a period of slow economic growth, declining home speaker sales, and tepid autosound growth, but Braun said he is undeterred. "There's always opportunity for something new and exciting," he said.

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