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HTSA Mounting Market Share Offensive

Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) is mounting a three-pronged plan to give its members a higher profile in the marketplace and take competitors’ share.

The strategy, unveiled to the buying group’s installers, integrators and specialty A/V dealers last month during its spring meeting here at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, leverages the Internet, direct mail and a third, unannounced component that’s still in the planning stage and remains under wraps.

“It’s all about share right now,” explained Richard Glikes, the group’s executive director. “The market is shrinking, there’s no growth right now, so to succeed you have to eat somebody’s lunch.”

The online element includes a new Web site for the group and new individual sites for each of its 60 members. The group site, which launches this month after six months of development, combines the existing, designed for members and the trade, with the group’s consumer site,

Glikes described the new platform as “an authority Web site” that will serve as a resource for consumers, members and the industry, replete with videos, blogs, advertising and a member directory. The new entity will be better executed than its forerunners, he said, and the group will focus its resources there.

Individual member sites will be optimized to be more “Google- and search-friendly,” he said.

The direct-mail leg of the strategy will feature vendor-specific promotions that focus on particular areas of the home, such as the kitchen or patio. Glikes said the group is working with a creative marketing agency whose direct-mail pieces “get people to open their mail.”

The combined on- and off-line efforts will target both existing and potential customers, he said. “The goal is to raise the market visibility of our dealers,” he told TWICE. “If we can, our business will increase.”

But visibility is only one of three major challenges for the $450 million buying group, which also faces margin erosion and cash-flow issues.

“Everyone wants a deal,” Glikes observed, as consumers put additional pressure on margins by exercising their bargaining power in the current economy. HTSA is addressing the problem by consolidating its vendor base, making the group more important to remaining manufacturers. New additions to the short list of HTSA suppliers include Samsung, Furman, Pantel and the returning Pioneer.

To help ease cash constraints, HTSA has moved some of its business to the distributor channel and has switched to quarterly programming with vendors, Glikes said.

The meeting itself, dubbed the “Assiduous Assimilation,” drew 50 of HTSA’s 60 member companies and 210 attendees in total. Like most HTSA gatherings, it accomplished three goals, he said: to build relationships; to share ideas and information, including the template for the industry’s first solar-powered home theater (see story, p. 19); and to have a good time.

“The dealers were delighted to be among vendor partners and fellow members,” Glikes said. “The last few months have been stressful and it’s good to get away and loosen up a little bit.”