HANNspree, a Taiwanese manufacturer of exotically styled and licenced flat-panel TVs, will formally launch its U.S. brand marketing effort July 1 with the opening of the company’s first U.S. boutique store in Beverly Hills, Calif.
From there, the company expects to rapidly roll out over the next two years over hundreds of LCD-TV models covering one of the most diverse retail distribution bases yet seen in the consumer electronics industry, said Michael Amkreutz, HANNspree’s California product marketing VP, who recently ended his marketing relationship with Proview.
In addition to using its own branded showroom boutique stores in Beverly Hills, San Francisco and New York (due in 2006), and traditional consumer electronics accounts, the consumer electronics manufacturer is targeting such unconventional venues as home design stores, gift stores, baby stores, toy stores, sporting goods chains and Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Basketball Association (NBA) licensed product shops.
Unlike most other Asian TV startups trying to get a foothold in the competitive U.S. market, HANNspree will build its brand around the unorthodox designs of its TV’s cabinets, in addition to the quality of pictures and sound they produce, Amkreutz said.
TVs are crafted to look like everything from stuffed animals and baseballs to the dashboards of automobiles.
The product launch will be conducted in three phases with the first phase running through December 2005 involving the delivery of 65 designs and over 150 SKUs with screen sizes ranging from 10- to 23W-inches.
The second phase runs January through the Summer of 2006, and will involve additional screen sizes and licenses, while the third phase will step up to big-screen TV products slated to hit the market in the second half of next year.
For many products, the company will leverage licenses “with some of the most powerful brands in the United States,” including Disney, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Licensing deals for the U.S. with the National Football League and Warner Brothers are also in negotiation, Amkreutz said.
The unusual look of the sets is the key to the plan of company chairman Yu-Chi Chiao, who is looking to build HANNspree into a top-tier flat-panel TV brand rivaling Samsung, Amkreutz explained.
Maintaining healthy profit margins on LCD TVs is central to the HANNspree mission. Chiao is also chairman of LCD panel manufacturer HannStar, which will produce most of the screens for the HANNspree line. He developed HANNspree as a way to rise above the cannibalistic pricing trend in the LCD industry.
“This is the opportunity of the ages,” Amkreutz said. “This is about offering something as revolutionary as color to the TV industry – design, lifestyle and fun. This is the next revolution in the TV business.”
While other manufacturers are talking about new picture-enhancing technologies that only a handful of people will ever understand, Amkreutz said HANNspree is delivering televisions with which people can personally identify. These LCD TVs look like familiar objects from their favorite sports, foods, animals, storybooks and comic books.
Amkreutz said Chiao invested millions in tooling over the last four years to create a broad lineup.
Some licensing partners will play a role in bringing HANNspree to market. Amkreutz called HANNspree’s deal with the NBA “a full multi-million dollar marketing partnership” that runs three years, and gives HANNspree the ability to place its products in NBA telecasts and to merchandise HANNspree NBA-themed flat-screen TVs in the NBA Store in New York City, and other NBA venues.
The MLB deal will include displaying HANNspree products at select games.
Licenses for sports leagues are also being extended to include relationships with individual teams, enabling HANNspree to produce a number of products with both league and team logos. In the case of the MLB license, HANNspree will market up to 30 different team-oriented variations of certain SKUs, and up to 16 team SKUs for the MLB.
For the Disney license, which at press time was still being finalized, HANNspree expected to distribute products both individually and in partnership with Disney’s Consumer Products division, which would carry goods to Disney stores, theme parks and retail accounts already carrying Disney-licensed electronics products, Amkreutz said.
HANNspree, which will be known as HANNspree California, in the U.S., will have sales offices in California, New Jersey and Illinois.
To distribute products, HANNspree is assembling a team of merchandising reps with experience in the many distribution channels the company hopes to penetrate. The company also expects to add two-step distributors to handle more localized mom-and-pop accounts, Amkreutz said.
HANNspree, which is using a sophisticated inventory management system, expects to eventually extend its distribution to major mass merchant accounts, although that is not expected to happen in the early rollout phases.
HANNspree, which expects to sign on with Amazon.com shortly, will hold selected e-commerce accounts to strict MAP pricing programs and brand merchandising agreements, Amkreutz said.
Products will be priced to compete with tier-one LCD brands, allowing retailers to profit from better than 20-point average profit margins, he added.