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HTSA Sees Business Rebound

10/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

DENVER – The Home Technology Specialists of
America (HTSA) is enjoying a resurgence of its
high-end audio, automation and home-networking
businesses, the buying group’s senior executives
reported.

Executive committee members Jon Robbins, principal
of HiFi House, and Brian Hudkins, owner of
Gramophone, told TWICE that many of HTSA’s 56
member integrators, A/V dealers and custom installers
have seen a significant “bump” in those categories,
as customers elect to invest in their current
homes rather than purchase new ones.

The group, now in its 16th year, was gathered
here last week for its annual fall “Pump Up” meeting,
the first without former executive director Richard
Glikes, who resigned unexpectedly in August.

HTSA began interviewing potential successors
during last month’s CEDIA Expo, Robbins said, and
has narrowed a 12-person field down to two candidates.
A final decision is expected shortly, and the
new executive director will make his formal debut at
International CES in January.

Hudkins said the executive committee was looking
for someone who can provide a strategic vision
for the future, build great relationships with current
and prospective members and vendors, and serve
as the charismatic face of the group.

Hudkins, a past president of HTSA, and Robbins,
who will assume that post in January, described
themselves as longtime friends of Glikes,
and wished him well in his new endeavor, a buying
group start-up called Azione Unlimited.

“Richard was the first and only executive director
and he did a lot of amazing stuff for us,” Robbins said.

Nevertheless, the theme of the three-day meeting was “Time For A Change,” as HTSA seeks to infuse
the group with new blood and fresh ideas. “We’re
looking for younger members who know the new technologies”
and can benefit from older members’ audio
and business expertise, Robbins said.

To that end, the group welcomed two new members,
S3, which recently acquired former member
Aurant, and Omaha, Neb.-based Echo Tech, as well
as two new vendors, Meridian America and Soundcast
Systems.

Besides strong gains in audio and control systems,
and “dramatic” growth in home networking, business
is also burgeoning in home theater furniture, Hudkins
said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there,” he noted,
which is helping to offset falling flat panel TV prices
and revenue. “Our guys are not TV-focused.”

But not all video is in a price spiral. The board members
pointed to Sharp’s “remarkable” 70-inch Elite
LED TV, which was awarded HTSA’s Video Product
of the Year at the meeting, and Sony’s forthcoming 4K
SXRD home projector, as the kind of innovative, superpremium
products that will help protect the specialty
A/V channel from Internet disruption and rampant
price promotion.

Members are also differentiated in the marketplace
by their installation expertise, which price-driven retailers
have yet to replicate. “Giving away the recipe
doesn’t mean giving away the meal,” Hudkins said,
quoting an HTSA dealer.

The group also depends on two-step distribution to
help keep members in stock and competitive on price.
Distributor partners include Almo for Sharp and Panasonic
products, Ingram Micro/DBL for Samsung merchandise
and Tech Data for Sony’s lines.

Other HTSA award winners announced at the meeting
included:

• Savant’s SmartTouch remote as Custom Product
of the Year;

• Panamax/Furman’s BlueBolt remote power management
as Best New Technology; and

• Lutron’s Jeff Zemanek as Man of the Year, reflecting
HTSA’s “exponential growth” in that business.

Other highlights of the show included presentations
by author and recording artist Robin Crow, whose
Dark Horse studio in Nashville has recorded gold and
platinum albums for Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Amy Grant,
Alison Krause and Neil Diamond.

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