PRO Wanted 3D 1st, Still Upbeat On Format

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SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — The 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 product.”

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 [video game] 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.”


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