By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
SAN ANTONIO – Members and vendors of the Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) were urged to leverage their collective capabilities in a “creative collaboration” at the buying group’s annual spring meeting here last week.
HTSA managing director Bob Hana told the more than 200 attendees at the Hyatt Regency that their resources, creativity and imagination, if used in combination, could create “untapped opportunities” in a recovering marketplace, and encouraged the group to employ what he termed divergent thinking to “break out of the norm.”
The effort will help position HTSA’s 65 dealers, installers and integrators for the coming recovery, which is evidenced by improvements in consumer confidence and major economic indicators, Hana said. While the climate remains challenging, business is on the upswing and profits are on the rise, with more than 70 percent of HTSA members reporting improved profitability in 2012, he noted.
“I’m feeling good about the trend,” Hana said, while guest speaker Kerry Moyer, retail membership senior director of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), pointed to a “return to trend growth” by 2014.
Members were equally upbeat. Deborah Ross, principal of Audio Video Excellence, weathered the recession by shutting two of her three Alabama showrooms but now reported that business is rebounding in her core market of Birmingham. Clients lost or squirreled away money during the downturn but are now more willing to spend on major projects, she told TWICE.
The first fruit of Hana’s collaborative effort is a new “refresher course” in sales and step-up selling, developed by HTSA suppliers Audioquest, B&W, Digital Projection, Stewart Filmscreen and Universal Remote Control, that will launch later this year.
The group will also hold a second annual marketing conference for middle managers July 9-11 in Chicago, and invited vendors to get their messages out to HTSA clients by providing content for its monthly newsletters at no charge for up to five campaigns.
The newsletter, along with other print and online initiatives, are critical to creating demand, Hana said, and have become HTSA’s central focus during his tenure.
“We’ve elevated HTSA beyond a traditional buying group,” he said. “We’re shifting to marketing, which is the strength of the organization. We’re using websites, links, search and social networking to find more clients and increase demand.”
Other marketing efforts, led by HTSA marketing director Kathleen Marini, include the lifestyle publication HD Living Magazine, the amassing of a 1.5 million-address database, and the creation of a customized, 46-page Home Technology Guide for high-value clients that showcases members’ whole-home capabilities.
HTSA will also participate in CEA’s CE Demo Days retail promotion in June. Suzanne Martin, chief marketing officer of Revenew, which is partnering with CEA on the project, said members will receive a micro site and co-branded email kit and will be included in CEA’s dealer-locator search function.
Other highlights of the meeting included a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities of Cloud-based services, a mini vendor trade show, and a “Tech Mix” event where members had the opportunity to tap vendors’ brains on ways to integrate, train for and make margins on myriad product categories.
In other HTSA news, the group, which accounts for about $475 million in wholesale volume, added four new members and two new vendors since January. The latest additions include dealer/installer Blair Home Technologies and home-theater seating resource Cinematech, which both joined on April 1.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.