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Record Setting CES Lauded By Shapiro, Gornik

Las Vegas – Attendees at yesterday morning’s opening keynote session got their first welcome to the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show from the sponsoring organization’s top two officers, Consumer Electronic Association president.

CEO Gary Shapiro and the trade group’s new chairman, Kathy Gornik, president of Thiel Audio Products.

Noting that this year’s version is expected to be a ‘record setter,’ Shapiro said, ‘It’s almost certain to be 2003’s largest annual trade show of any type in America.’ The event, he said, features more than 2,200 exhibitors, as well as a record 25 technology and product showcase pavilions, and will attract more than 10,000 international visitors, making CES ‘a global event.’

Despite the nation’s economic recession, Shapiro said, industry factory sales last year were up an estimated 3.7 percent to a record $96 billion last year, and is forecast to approach the $100 billion mark in 2003.

The ongoing growth, Shapiro said, is being driven in part by three major technological areas: wireless, connectivity and digital. Wireless, he stated, accounts for nearly $9 billion in hardware sales, and the dealer opportunities in this area are being demonstrated at CES ‘at the Ultimate Wireless Superstore,’ a ‘cutting-edge model retail store representing the evolving wireless retailing experience.’

He also announced that CEA has created ‘an online Wireless Certification Program’ for retail salespeople.

The growing trend toward connectivity, he said, is being spotlighted ‘at the CES TechHome Pavilion,’ featuring CEA’s Tech Home Rating System,’ that allows buyers and sellers to rate a home’s technical capabilities.

The current area where digital ‘may be having the most immediate and decisive impact,’ is video, Shapiro said, adding ‘we sold over 2.5 million HDTV units last year, well up from the projection of 2.1 million.’

At the same time, digital technology is also having a big impact in audio, as evidenced by last year’s sharp sales growth for MP3 players, seen jumping 26 percent this year. Shapiro said CEA’s Audio Division has created the ThunderDome program to promote home theater and digital audio at colleges.

Gornik, who is both the first audio industry representative, and the first woman, to chair the CEA, said she was at CES in the dual role of association head and as an exhibitor ‘of more than 20 years’.

Thiel, she said, was still a start-up speaker company in 1977 when it first exhibited at CES. The show brought ‘the consumer electronics industry to our door,’ and launched the company on the road to success.

While CES is the CEA’s most visible industry support activity, Gornik said, ‘the truth is CEA works 365 days a year to meet this mission,’ and just this year is launching two new initiatives. ‘I am very excited to announce that last month CEA’s Executive Board approved the formation of a Small Business Council. The Council will provide programming and involve senior industry executives in a mentoring role to teach the skills needed by the successful entrepreneur.’ The programming will be delivered ‘via Webcasts, teleconferences, an area on the CEA Web site to include an ‘Idea Bank’ and, possibly dedicated events.’

While industry products ‘traditionally are thought of as `boys’ toys,” Gornik said, ‘according to CEA market research, women are involved in 75 percent of consumer electronics purchasing decisions and initiate nearly 50 percent of CE purchases.’

Accordingly, CEA is launching `Technology Is A Girl’s Best Friend,’ a media relations campaign focusing ‘on the female technology consumer and the thriving female consumer market.

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