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PRO Wanted 3D 1st, Still Upbeat On Format

PRO Group is disappointed that
A/V specialists didn’t get a first shot
at selling 3D TV, but are ready, willing
and able to sell the technology as
shipments arrive.

Both George Manlove, president/
CEO of Vann’s and chairman of PRO,
along with Walt Stinson, co-founder
of ListenUp and secretary/treasurer
of PRO, told TWICE they were not
pleased that specialists didn’t get the
chance to introduce 3D TV.

“We believe that specialty retailers
have always been best-suited to introduce
new technology,” Manlove said,
“and some manufacturers are questioning
the long-term decision of having big
boxes introduce it. If they had to do it
over again, they’d probably ask for a
mulligan because the experience on the
sales floors has been unacceptable since
they can’t explain the technology.”

Stinson pointed out, “Manufacturers
knew [specialists] could introduce
this type of technology, but they lost that
knowledge. With all the changes and turmoil
in their companies, their institutional
memory isn’t what it used to be.”

The good news for PRO is that its
members are “starting to get some decent
supplies, from Samsung and Panasonic,”
according to Dave Workman,
PRO’s executive director.

He stressed that 3D TV is “a marathon
that has to be focused on for the
long haul, for next year and the years
after. It isn’t about immediate numbers.
[At retail] you have to do your blocking
and tackling.”

Workman said that while consumers know 3D from the movie theater, “They
don’t understand the nuances of the
home experience, about audio quality,
using HDMI 1.4, the types of glasses to
be used, why the image may be blurry at
times … there are so many questions —
questions that cater to a specialist’s expertise.”

And he added, “The worst thing for
everyone would be a bad buzz in the
market based on a bad retail experience.”

The issue of being bypassed in 3D
TV led to the Workman to the key issue
of support — or lack of same — of
specialty retailers by major brands.

Workman said it was “premature to
discuss brand realignments” by PRO
but there have been discussions about
the “pecking order of support. We
have been vocal about channel strategies
with our suppliers and want to hear
more than just words.”

He noted, “There has been movement
by a number of manufacturers, sincere
and positive movement with plans and
not just words [to support specialists].
This is a departure.”

Workman said his group realizes that
when shortages occur, which has happened
in the first quarter, “The biggest
retailers will get preference in this business.
What we are looking for is manufacturers
to create more balance in distributing

Jim Ristow, executive director of
BrandSource’s Home Entertainment
Group, which has partnered with PRO
on several efforts, was also in attendance
and told TWICE, “Consumers
have embraced the 3D experience to the
surprise of many in the industry.”

He added that IPTV and video on
demand features in TV are
items “the consumer wants
— we can step up the consumer
and raise ASPs.”

Concerning current market
conditions, Ristow said
that while there may be
product shortages, “There
are positives. There is a stabilization
of pricing.”

He agreed with the description
of the current market
as “choppy” through
April but noted, “I’m bullish
about the second half. This
is anecdotal, but consumer
confidence appears to be
picking up on some discretionary purchases.”

And, thanks to 3D TV, PRO members
are looking at alternative categories,
according to Workman. “You can’t make
a nickel on hardware,” but
he said the group is looking at different
areas to package product “with TVs,
Blu-ray and other 3D products to garner
profits with this technology.”

PRO Talk

• Mitsubishi sales and marketing
VP Max Wasinger said that its 75-inch
Laservue will be in stores by June and
will be less expensive than its current
65-inch at a $599 retail.

• Some PRO Group members
are not that concerned about how
Walmart will use Vudu to attract
its own customers, but not all were
in agreement. Wasinger also commented
that Mitsubishi had had “no
push back” by retailers on offering
Walmart’s Vudu online video service
as a feature in his line, calling it a “tremendous
opportunity” for dealers.
• Toshiba will be entering the 3D
TV market at its press event during
CEDIA Expo in September, Scott
Ramirez, marketing VP, said. When
asked if closed-door meetings here
involved talk of its Cell TV, he said,
“Our No. 1 priority is that we are getting
our new lineup,” and said in terms
of supplies, “We are in good shape.
We have benefitted by the problems
of some of our competitors. We are
meeting our commitments.”