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GPX To Bow Upscale Bantam Brand At CES

Promotional supplier GPX will launch a new product and marketing strategy at next month’s CES, where the company will use the Bantam Interactive name to deliver step-up products and enter new product categories.

The new categories include LCD TV, DVD recorders and hard-disc-drive (HDD) music portables.

The company, known mainly for promotional home and portable audio products, will target Bantam-branded products to retailers and buying group members with assisted sales floors, including A/V specialists. It will mark the first time that the company is targeting A/V specialists and buying groups, CEO Bill Fetter told TWICE.

“There was a big push a few years ago to elevate the GPX brand to a higher category to compete with RCA, Philips and others,” Fetter said. But retailers who perceived GPX only as a promotional brand hindered the effort, he added.

Product lines that had little difference from competing brands in every aspect but cosmetics also hindered GPX, he admitted. “We were not a design house. We fell into the trap of picking off the shelf what was offered in China. We were like a typical buyer. If you went to the Emerson and Memorex booths at CES, they had similar designs to us.”

Now, to pursue its step-up ambitions, the company has hired design engineers to develop “boards to outer shells” and work more closely with the engineering teams of its OEM manufacturers to drive down costs and add value, he said. Another results will be a further increase in reliability to lower returns and boost the bottom line, he added.

Almost 80 percent of the company’s 2004 product designs are in-house-developed proprietary designs, the company said.

Bantam-brand products appearing at CES in video will include portable DVD players, high-definition 720p LCD TVs, DVD/LCD-TV combos and a DVD+R/RW recorder. In audio there will be portable HDD music jukebox, flash-memory portables and headphone CDs that play MP3 and WMA music files, flash-memory portables with built-in encoders and home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems, some with DVD+R/RW recorders.

LCD-TVs will be available in 15- to 21-inch screen sizes at prices from $399 to $1,000. The products ship in the second quarter. The company is also considering a 30-inch LCD TV.

New GPX-brand products due in the second quarter include headphone cassette and MP3-CD portables, MP3-only portables, shelf systems, HTiBs and small-screen black-and-white TVs. “We won’t abandon past GPX categories,” Fretter said. “We don’t expect to vacate the promotional category, which has been doing very well compared to mid-tier brands.”

GPX also won’t abandon its traditional distribution channels, which include Circuit City, Target, Wal-Mart and Sears.

Retailers with trained sales staffs among GPX’s existing channels, such as Sears, will also be eligible for Bantam, as well as regional A/V specialty chains that GPX never sold to, Fretter said. The GPX brand will also be offered to the buying groups, Fretter noted. “We’ll give the independents a promotional brand that can help drive traffic tot he store,” he said.

The Bantam brand was marketed previously by St. Louis-based startup Bantam Interactive, which was owned by Netherlands-based Hagemeyer, the $9 billion company that also owns GPX Inc.