By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
In the last year, Akai Product Holdings has made significant inroads into mass merchant, big-box consumer electronics chains and assorted regional electronics accounts with lines of CRT rear-projection, CRT direct-view, LCD direct-view and plasma display monitors.
Gary Lafferty, Akai's chief operating officer and Philips' veteran, said the company's midtier strategy has helped it double revenue in the last year and expand its dealer base from a handful of players to approximately 30 dealers covering some 1,500 retail storefronts for projection TV/microdisplay products.
For plasma display panels, Akai has added 29 retailers and nearly 900 stores, while also expanding its SKU count.
Lafferty said Akai's LCD and DLP products also “show great promise and potential.”
The company continues to try to expand distribution to assisted sales floors while building on its warehouse club business.
Today, Akai lists Circuit City and Costco as key accounts, and will look to expand its dealer ranks at CES in January using a product line that is positioned for high value and strong performance, the company said.
“As we go into 2005 with this distribution base and a few more additions, we are looking at doubling our revenue again this year,” Lafferty said.
Starting the last week of November, Akai will begin delivering a 46W-inch DLP-based rear-projection HDTV with fully integrated ATSC tuner, but will omit a digital CableCARD slot. The set is based on Texas Instruments' HD2 Digital Micromirror Device and will carry a $2,299 suggested retail price.
Lafferty said Akai's strategy for microdisplay products is to offer high quality performance at price points seated between the premium and opening brands.
Model PT46DL20, which is earmarked for Circuit City and regional accounts, was designed by Akai and is being manufactured under contract with the Five Rivers assembly plant in Greenville, Tenn. Akai will supply a second 46W-inch model with different cabinet styling to the Costco warehouse club, Lafferty said.
Last-minute complications procuring component parts pushed the originally scheduled August ship date on the DLP models back to the last week of November, he explained. But Akai believes the strong performance of the product and value price for a microdisplay model will make it a strong performer heading into the holiday shopping season.
Lafferty said he expects microdisplay rear-projection to quickly become a significant portion of Akai's business. The company projects revenue from microdisplay and plasma “to be basically an even number by the end of 2005,”after plasma stood out as a major revenue generator for the company in 2004.
At January CES, Akai will hold a “coming out party,” where it will showcase an expanded DLP lineup for 2005. New models will include 50W-inch and 52W-inch screen sizes. Lafferty said the company may also opt to add a 56W-inch model. The company plans to offer both fully integrated and monitor-only DLP rear-projection configurations.
Select new models will be based on TI's HD3 chipset and will include both integrated ATSC tuning and digital CableCARD slots, according to Lafferty.
For the future, the company will continue to introduce “new technologies it can bring to the consumer at a value proposition, open it up to more dealers quicker, and increase the category size quicker,” said Lafferty.
As for LCD TVs, the company currently carries four HD-level monitors in the 20-inch ($799), 26W-inch ($1,299), 27W-inch ($1,499) and 30W-inch ($1,999) screen sizes. Akai also carries EDTV level LCD TV monitors in the 15-inch ($499) and 17-inch ($699) screen sizes, and has plans for 17W-inch and 32W-inch HDTV models in early 2005.
The company will also carry a pair of next-generation HD plasma display monitors in the 42W-inch and 50W-inch screen sizes beginning in February 2005. The plasma assortment currently includes a 42W-inch EDTV-level plasma monitor at a $1,999 suggested retail price.
In CRT rear-projection HDTV monitors, Akai's 2005 line will feature six models in three screen sizes (42W-inches, 47W-inches and 52W-inches) ranging from $999-$1,199.
Widescreen direct-view CRT H/DTV monitors will be carried in the 26W-inch ($699) and 30W-inch ($799) screen sizes beginning in April.
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