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Others Alternatives Gaining Momentum

NEW YORK — Bedding and furniture are by far the most popular categories in which traditional CE and majap dealers expand their footprints, but several others are gaining traction or hold the promise of growth and profit potential.

Power products and energy management: A string of extreme weather events around the country in recent years has spurred consumer interest in portable generators, and many dealers can cover the category with just a few SKUs. Larger dealers with installation businesses can up-sell consumers to installed whole-house units.

In addition, photo voltaic solar panels are finally reaching the consumer level in affordable arrays. For the eco-minded shopper, a solar solution for the home offers the best of both worlds: It can cut utility bills drastically and, with the addition of a battery backup, power a home in the case of a power outage.

Fitness equipment: In 2011, the home fitness equipment industry experienced its first year of revenue growth in more than 10 years, and the category is expected to continue growing through 2017, according to an IBISWorld forecast.

Consumers tend to furnish whole rooms at a time, and often the complement to a family room, home office or basement man cave is the addition of a treadmill, elliptical stepper, exercise bike or a stair climber. With average tickets well more than $1,000 for a decent machine, displaying fitness equipment adjacent to home theater and home office vignettes can be a powerful incentive to a new homeowner for an add-on purchase.

Lighting: Long a staple of custom installers, lighting control technology has simplified and reached the masses, with CE brands like Monster and Philips, among others, offering Wi- Fi LED light bulbs and lamps that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet.

Higher-end offerings includes indoor items like under-cabinet lighting and LED strip lights, and outdoor products like landscape lighting and outdoor fixtures, along with a wide assortment of accessories such as dimmers, controllers and power supplies.

Noted Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), a division of the Nationwide Marketing Group: “The lighting category can be highly profitable and is not challenging to implement.”

Musical instruments and pro audio: Mass merchants such as Walmart and Best Buy have increasingly added musical instruments to their product offerings and are often able to negotiate lower prices than traditional music chains from manufacturers due to their economies of scale, but there is room for the independent dealer.

Musical instrument consumers tend to be tech-savvy, and many are also using their iPads and MacBooks to record, produce and distribute their music. A curated inventory of microphones, monitors, PA systems, DJ equipment, mixers and pro-grade headphones can pack a powerful margin punch for the right retailer.