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Retailers Trying Non-Traditional Categories

From CEDIA Expo to Best Buy’s annual Holiday Preview to the annual NATM meeting this week, the search for non-traditional product categories is in full swing as retailers and installers look to build traffic and volume.

For instance, Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) for the past year or two have gone after home lighting and security, even solar panels, to attract new business. Executive director Richard Glikes said during CEDIA that the effort is “is going well and progressing. We are doing well with that.”

And in his typically blunt way he explained why HTSA looks at alternative categories: “I keep telling members that you can’t just rely on TV sales. If you are just a TV store, you will be out of business.”

Best Buy is known for looking at new and different categories and business models — from taking on major appliances years ago to buying Geek Squad, Magnolia HiFi and Pacific Sales, just to name a few.

Brian Dunn, CEO, said at Tuesday’s event that digital technology and connectivity is bringing health products, such as heart rate monitors, under its focus, along with fitness products. “Digital technology affects so many areas … it has come to fitness and health, and when it comes to our expertise in connectivity” to share data, “it will help us.”

Dunn cracked that one of Best Buy’s “smoking hot” products was unexpected — a yoga mat with an audio speaker.

And NATM, with traditionally electronics/appliance chains that dominate their regions, are looking around for alternatives too. NATM invited Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Dell and Samsung’s computer division to its conference this week.

NATM member Abt Electronics has added water heaters and HVAC. Not new for NATM, but new for member Electronic Express is a recently added appliance assortment and a re-merchandised PC department.

With International CES featuring major appliances in January 2011, it seems as if anything is possible if it is related in some way to technology, especially connected technology,  that is important in homes.