Home Entertainment Source (HES), the A/V specialty buying group division of AVB/Brand Source, announced new staff members and outlined its plans for its membership during the convention held at the Paris Hotel, here, last week.
Under Jim Ristow, general manager of HES, the specialty group includes 300 of Brand Source's 2,500 independents and has sales of $550 million.
Recently HES hired Greg Caves, ex-national sales manager of Runco, and Sherry Dantonio, former corporate buyer for Definitive Audio, as national membership managers for the group. Ristow noted that their experience in the "CE specialty community is invaluable when counseling our members."
And the group's members are becoming far more astute in the specialty business, Ristow told TWICE. "Around 90 to 95 percent of all HES members are doing custom installation, in one form or another. " HES has the backing of such brands as Pioneer Elite, Mitsubishi, Marantz, Yamaha, Speakercraft, Sharp and quite a few others.
HES members can also take advantage of the Expert Warehouse program (see story on p. 78) available to all AVB/Brand Source members that sell consumer electronics. The program includes the online order system.
While Ristow is upbeat about the prospects for HES as the division expands, and the rollout of HDTV continues, he is concerned about the sagging audio business. "We see that consumer demand is down, basically because listening to audio isn't what it used to be" due in part to the ongoing "problems in the recording business which has hurt audio [hardware] sales."
He added, "In competing with home-theater-in-a-box [HTIB] systems, audio components are caught in a 'style vs. sound' situation. If the HTIB looks great vs. the components featuring tower speakers, style wins." HES has urged its members to "build their own, custom HTIB systems to give their offerings some uniqueness."