By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Runco International, manufacturer of high-end video-display products for the custom-installation market, recently concluded its annual Mexican Getaway for top-performing dealers, reps and press by announcing record sales levels in 2003 and expectations for new records in 2004.
Bob Hana, Runco president, said his "fourth quarter  was the highest revenue quarter we've ever had in the history of Runco and in the first quarter of 2004, we were up 23 percent over the same period in the prior year."
He attributed the success to the company's dominant position in the growing high-end custom installation market, the continuing evolution and reputation of its DLP projectors and plasma displays, and the deployment of new sales and marketing tools that have enhanced efficiency for both the firm and its customers.
He added that Runco was also able to get access to more 61W-inch plasma panels during the fourth quarter. The deliveries helped meet very strong demand. Hana said the growth in Runco's business is now almost evenly split between projectors and plasma displays.
Runco told dealers at the Getaway that it would continue to enhance its new World Premiere Service program by strengthening the internal knowledge base and developing tools.
Hana said he expects the system to enable Runco "to share the knowledge base with more and more of our dealers. This includes detailed information on not only our products but how they interface with control systems and all of the other components in the home theater environment."
Within the next 90 days Runco will launch the "Runco ExtraNet," Hana said, explaining it as a restricted Web portal that will allow Runco dealers and others in the organization to access company and product information arranged in a variety of access levels.
"The Runco ExtraNet site will offer everything from order confirmation, order tracking, account status, pricing information and other data that might be considered confidential information between our dealers and ourselves," he said. "The goal was to help reduce some of our back office expenses and make our operations much more efficient."
Runco is also bolstering its field training efforts to support its successful centralized training classes run at its headquarters. Hana called the latest effort "in-their-face training," sending Runco training staff "out to more accounts than ever before with specific training for specific dealers at their location.
Hana said the field training is a more "intermediary training program" than Runco's centralized training programs, but "it was very effective in some of the mid- to larger accounts. We can reach more of the people in their organizations with information on our products and give them our suggestions for up-selling to premium products."
As for new products, Runco unveiled new three-chip DLP projectors, including the soon-to-ship VX-2, which will carry a $39,995 suggested retail.
The VX-2 will be the first product to use Runco's DHD12 all-digital controller/processor as its "front end." The controller, which will be sold separately at a $6,995 suggested retail and in packages with other projectors Runco plans to ship this month, is based on Runco's popular Vivix technology.
The processor is capable of pure digital signal processing while offering improvements in switching times.
Also announced were Runco's ultra-elite 3-chip DLP projector models — the VX-4c ($69,995-$99,995) and VX-6c ($89,995-119,995).
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.