INDIANAPOLIS. — Thomson, up and running with the Recoton lineup of consumer electronics accessories acquired last year, predicts significant growth in the business for 2004 and is optimistic about the results it is going to achieve.
"We are very happy with the acquisition decision we made," said David Geise, VP/worldwide Consumer Solutions, for the French consumer electronics giant. Among the key accessories focus areas for Paris-headquartered Thomson are expanding its computer line, introducing portable storage bags enhancing Recoton's Ambico bag line, making a major push in optical media and debuting a crew of antennas.
Geise, based at Thomson's U.S. headquarters for consumer products, here, pinpoints the seven key product categories that have emerged following the joining of Recoton and Thomson RCA accessories brands last year, when Thomson completed a $60 million winning auction bid for bankrupt Recoton.
These include controller user interface: universal remote controls and keyboards; media and imaging: CD and DVD optical media, video and audio tape, media imaging cleaning and care products and batteries; and reception products: indoor and outdoor antennas and satellite accessories.
Other ongoing Thomson CE accessories categories include hook-up and connectivity: A/V cables, connectors, modulators, switchers and amplifiers; and power: surge products, strips and power management cords.
The final two categories are computing: home networking, peripherals and accessories; and product enhancement: headphones, wireless and wired speakers, storage bags, signal senders and furniture.
"The acquisition enabled us to broaden our distribution, utilizing the brands effectively for the channels of distribution that they fit well with," said Geise. "While RCA is a mass distributed line, where we have representation in all channels, Recoton's distribution was little bit more selective — where you find AR [Acoustic Research] in certain channels of distribution, Jensen or Advent in certain channels of distribution. Consequently, we find that complementary in going to the marketplace."
Thomson's newfound portfolio of accessories brands provides the consumer with choices, and the products fit different segments. For example, past and current positioning of AR is as a "best" high-end product that provides the consumer with the latest and greatest in technology. The AR product segments, whether hook-up or surge, have very strong appeal with a particular consumer base. Other brands, said Thomson, are positioned for greater mass appeal, so the company looks at and develops brand strategies according to the way it sees how consumers are focused on those brands.
"We're represented in all the major channels and have a significant position with many of the key players — specialty retailers and mass merchants — both large and small, where accessories are becoming an increasingly important aspect of their total product offering to consumers," said Geise. "We see, with the various brands and products we picked up from Recoton, a great opportunity for Thomson to expand its presence and its offering."
Thomson's competitive advantage, said Geise, is in providing retailers with a number of brands and products so they don't become singularly focused. "We give them the opportunity for some very specialized brands — cleaning and care with Discwasher, surge protection with SpikeMaster, as well as brand names associated with certain product categories — Ambico bags, high-quality Acoustic Research cables and connectivity," said Geise.
It is a Thomson goal, he said, to take this portfolio of brands and offer them in a way both retailers and consumers have the benefits of technology, and [retailers] are able to market them effectively to the consumer.
Incorporating the Recoton line into the Thomson fold along with RCA products is being completed under the mantel of global perspective. To this end, Thomson product management and engineering teams have been assigned responsibility that revolves around a global presence. Geise said that Thomson wants to leverage its global strengths "in areas of product management, engineering and packaging — in areas in which we wanted to make sure we were close to our markets and marketing and sales were maintained on a regional basis."
But he added, "The marketing and sales aspects are focused on individual regional areas, such as the Americas."
Thomson is in the process of going through a complete review of all different product lines, looking at where it needs to enhance an assortment or enhance a technology. Brands going forward include RCA, Recoton, Jensen, Advent, AR, Ambico, Discwasher and SpikeMaster.
Expansion of computer peripherals is foremost in company planning. New is a universal 8-in-1 flash memory card reader that transfers digital data between flash memory cards and PCs, or to other cards. The PC6800 offers two integrated slots that read eight types of flash memory. Also, a cordless multimedia keyboard with cordless optical mouse, PC7630, offers 104 keys, 19 hot keys and removable wrist rest.
Thomson is maintaining Recoton's Ambico brand of portable storage bags, but also is looking at other segments of the category, namely in usage that utilizes new technologies for carrying MP3 devices and digital cameras. The storage bag business is fast changing, said Thomson, as technologies and product's shift, responding to consumer needs. Thus, Thomson is looking at overall line enhancement, mainly better materials and improved components for materials.
New for Thomson in portable storage in the Americas is its Ambassador line of DVD bags. These offer durable sleeve construction technology for maximum protection, with each sleeve holding a DVD and liner notes. Three-ring binder construction allows DVD transfer ease from one case to another. The line includes two 12-DVD portable DVD player bags with integrated media storage — one silver/black, BDPL0601, and one metallic blue/black, BDPL0602. Suggested retail for both is $26.95.
As Thomson enters the New Year, it is in the process of introducing into the marketplace CD and DVD optical media, with which it is making a "major statement" this week at the International CES in Las Vegas.
A new RCA-brand DVD+R disc for PC or home video use is a write-once disc for DVD+R/ +RW PC drive or a DVD+R/+RW home DVD video recorder. It is 240 minute/4.7GB recordable and comes in three SKUs — 1 DVD+R in a single full jewel case at a suggested $5.95 retail, a 3 DVD+R pack, with three cases boxed for $11.95 and a 6 DVD+R box with six cases for $22.95.
By continually working with retailers and looking at various opportunities for promotional activities, Thomson said it is better able to optimize sales. The company, however, has no major national advertising campaigns planned for accessories this year, and is still evaluating consumer ads.