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PARA: AV Specialists Must Reinvent Themselves Again

4/23/2004 09:23:00 AM Eastern

Scottsdale, Ariz. – Pronounced changes in technology and retail distribution will force AV specialists to reinvent themselves one more time, outgoing PARA executive director Deborah Smith told dealers at PARA’s 25th annual management conference.

These changes, Smith said, will "displace the low end of our custom and retail businesses."

Even though the economy is springing back, Smith said, dealers are feeling uneasy and are asking, "What is going on out there in the world of technology and consumer electronics?" The "sluggish economy" had "masked the changes," she said, but as the economy improves, "things are going to change, and fast."

The changes include Best Buy’s repositioning as a step-up dealer, Microsoft and Intel "hard at work" on converging IT and AV products in the home, and cable and satellite companies "vying to get into our space," she said.

To these changes, PARA president John Flanner added the arrival of internet retailers and PC retailers into the home AV market and the popularity of home PC networking, which specialists are trying to integrate into their product mix.

In the past, audio specialists changed to integrate video into their mix, later added lifestyle settings to complement their sound rooms, then diversified into custom installation, Smith said. For many years, specialists were going under at a high rate, and "so often it was those dealers resistant to change," she said.

This year’s conference, Smith said, was designed to help dealers come to grips with the latest industry changes. A panel that included Microsoft and Intel executives, for example, focused on the future of the convergent home. Another session focused on how specialists can create a home network strategy, even to the point of selling PCs profitably. Another session focused on how to create a high-end gaming strategy. And another focused on emerging technologies that could threaten the custom