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Modia Maintaining Its Forward Momentum

HOUSTON – Modia, the ultra-premium A/V dealer, custom installer and system integrator, based here, is riding out the recession better than most.

Part of the success of the family-held, seven-showroom chain can be attributed to its high-income customer base, which includes more than its fair share of sports figures and celebrities. But at its core, driving the $26 million business is CEO Mihir Mody’s ability to foresee trends and act on them quickly, as he did when he embraced home theater in the early 1990s, integrated custom-install services into the retail operation in the mid-2000s, and most recently received Apple’s rare blessing to carry its iPad, iPod and Apple TV line.

“If you can see it ahead of time, be flexible and take appropriate steps to change your model, you can succeed,” Mody told TWICE.

His CE story began in the mid-1980s when he and his brother, both audio enthusiasts, learned the business by working through high school and college at a Tandy-owned Video Concepts store.

By 1986 the brothers, backed by their engineer dad, ventured out to open their own store, Videoland, just as VCRs were supercharging the TV business and camcorders were entering the mainstream.

Within six years the advent of multichannel A/V prompted the Modys to change direction and re-christen themselves the Home Theater Store, a brand they still own and employ online.

The latest transformation came in 2007, when Mody merged the retail operation with the family’s standalone integration and home-automation business as a hedge against the eventual decline in TV margins.

“As TV became commoditized and channel discipline was lost, we knew the future was in installation and whole-home systems,” he said.

Along with the new focus came another new moniker: Modia, which was a melding of the words “emotion” – reflecting the emotion involved in making a luxury purchase – and media, as in directed A/V. Supporting the concept was a newformat showroom that was sleek, minimalist and modern, and another standalone family business, Mody & Mody, an importer of luxury home furnishings from Italy, which provides a steady flow of referrals to its designer, builder and architect clientele.

But the journey was not without its setbacks, including an ill-fated foray into Phoenix and jettisoned plans to grow its store count by 50 percent in 2008.

Today, Modia is on track to open two new stores next year in existing markets, after it has completed the rollout this fall of its Apple in-store shops.

Mody described the Apple authorization process as a tough, nine-month courtship, in which the manufacturer was ultimately won over by Modia’s Apple Storelike showrooms and its plan for selling and integrating iPads as whole-home system control panels.

The addition of Apple is already bearing fruit by bringing in more foot traffic, hiking sales of headphones and accessories, and increasing its install jobs.

“We go beyond the mainstream applications to show customers all the features of these products, such as AirPlay for distributed audio,” Mody said. As a result, “Installation dollars are way up and you have a customer for life.”

Indeed, the business is now about 90 percent installation, which also encompasses its proprietary hometheater furniture that requires in-home setup.