HTSA Sees Business Rebound

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The Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) is enjoying a resurgence of its high-end audio, automation and home-networking businesses, the buying group’s senior executives reported.

Executive committee members Jon Robbins, principal of HiFi House, and Brian Hudkins, owner of Gramophone, told TWICE that many of HTSA’s 56 member integrators, A/V dealers and custom installers have seen a significant “bump” in those categories, as customers elect to invest in their current homes rather than purchase new ones.

The group, now in its 16th year, was gathered here last week for its annual fall “Pump Up” meeting, the first without former executive director Richard Glikes, who resigned unexpectedly in August.

HTSA began interviewing potential successors during last month’s CEDIA Expo, Robbins said, and has narrowed a 12-person field down to two candidates. A final decision is expected shortly, and the new executive director will make his formal debut at International CES in January.

Hudkins said the executive committee was looking for someone who can provide a strategic vision for the future, build great relationships with current and prospective members and vendors, and serve as the charismatic face of the group.

Hudkins, a past president of HTSA, and Robbins, who will assume that post in January, described themselves as longtime friends of Glikes, and wished him well in his new endeavor, a buying group start-up called Azione Unlimited.

“Richard was the first and only executive director and he did a lot of amazing stuff for us,” Robbins said.

Nevertheless, the theme of the three-day meeting was “Time For A Change,” as HTSA seeks to infuse the group with new blood and fresh ideas. “We’re looking for younger members who know the new technologies” and can benefit from older members’ audio and business expertise, Robbins said.

To that end, the group welcomed two new members, S3, which recently acquired former member Aurant, and Omaha, Neb.-based Echo Tech, as well as two new vendors, Meridian America and Soundcast Systems.

Besides strong gains in audio and control systems, and “dramatic” growth in home networking, business is also burgeoning in home theater furniture, Hudkins said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there,” he noted, which is helping to offset falling flat panel TV prices and revenue. “Our guys are not TV-focused.”

But not all video is in a price spiral. The board members pointed to Sharp’s “remarkable” 70-inch Elite LED TV, which was awarded HTSA’s Video Product of the Year at the meeting, and Sony’s forthcoming 4K SXRD home projector, as the kind of innovative, superpremium products that will help protect the specialty A/V channel from Internet disruption and rampant price promotion.

Members are also differentiated in the marketplace by their installation expertise, which price-driven retailers have yet to replicate. “Giving away the recipe doesn’t mean giving away the meal,” Hudkins said, quoting an HTSA dealer.

The group also depends on two-step distribution to help keep members in stock and competitive on price. Distributor partners include Almo for Sharp and Panasonic products, Ingram Micro/DBL for Samsung merchandise and Tech Data for Sony’s lines.

Other HTSA award winners announced at the meeting included:

• Savant’s SmartTouch remote as Custom Product of the Year;

• Panamax/Furman’s BlueBolt remote power management as Best New Technology; and

• Lutron’s Jeff Zemanek as Man of the Year, reflecting HTSA’s “exponential growth” in that business.

Other highlights of the show included presentations by author and recording artist Robin Crow, whose Dark Horse studio in Nashville has recorded gold and platinum albums for Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Amy Grant, Alison Krause and Neil Diamond.


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