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Richard Glikes: HTSA Is ‘Hunting Whales’

Richard Glikes, executive director of the $500-million Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) buying group, encouraged members to continue to fine tune their focus on consumers with the most buying power at the organization’s “Farouche Fall Pump-Up,” held here at the Fairmont hotel, Oct. 12-14.

Addressing the audience of members and vendors attending the semi-annual meeting, Glikes paraphrased a comment by CEDIA founder Rob Gerhardt and said, “We have been doing a lot of fishing … we should have been hunting,” adding that the group should be “hunting for whales.”

Glikes admitted that HTSA’s dealers had felt negative effects of the recent housing crisis more than he had expected. He explained that he thought the best move for the 62-member group of high-end custom dealers and installers would be to build their sales strategies around catering to a smaller percentage of customers with a disproportionate amount of buying power, essentially the top 10 percent of households, which he said control approximately 70 percent of the wealth in the United States.

In an interview, Glikes told TWICE that HTSA had a “strange year,” and that his meetings with members earlier in the week had shown that about half were reporting sales growth while the other half reported sales declines. He pointed out that in the past, dealer slumps were usually concentrated within a specific region, but this year dealers with declining sales were distributed fairly evenly among other members showing growth.

While the group has seen annual growth between 30 percent and 35 percent in recent years, he expected that the group would only be up about 5 to 9 percent overall this year. According to Glikes, the group’s furniture business was “strong,” its flat-panel business is “soft,” its audio business is “pretty good” and its control business is “solid.” Glikes also noted that the group’s lighting business is “up 30 to 35 percent.”

The groups focus on the luxury-minded consumers was reflected both in the topics and guest speakers on the meeting’s agenda as well as its recent marketing initiatives.

The meetings keynote addresses included a first-hand account from a self-proclaimed “whale,” Bob McDowell, information worker business value VP at Microsoft, who spoke about his experience as a luxury customer dealing with one of the group’s dealer members.

Attendees also heard from Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Insititute, a research and consulting firm that helps companies cater to luxury clients, an organization of which Glikes announced HTSA had recently become a member. Pedraza’s speech, called Inside the Lives and Minds of Luxury Consumers, was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Pedraza featuring executives from Saks Fifth Avenue Dallas, Sewell Automotive Companies. Bessemer Trust and The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas.

The final keynote, called How to Brand Your Company, was given by Orit, president/CEO of The O Group, a graphic design firm that focuses on luxury brands.

During the meeting, Glikes announced that the first issue of group’s custom-published magazine targeted at luxury-minded consumers had just been mailed. He told TWICE that the magazine, HDLiving, would reach approximately 250,000 consumers.

Glikes also noted that HTSA recently hired a new advertising agency and the group is continuing to ramp up its Web presence. He added that the group’s site had seen a 40 percent hike in hits and that the group was working on search engine optimization.