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Transformed Memcorp Hits CES Floor Running

In a time of rebirth and resolutions, one CE stalwart will hit CES reborn: Memcorp.

The company, which licensed the Memorex brand name in 1995 to market its line up of audio and video products as a house brand for a few major accounts, has undergone a significant transformation. The goal, said Paul Davis, senior sales VP/communications products, is to become a broad based supplier not just of audio and visual equipment but high end communications products as well as higher-end A/V with nationwide distribution — all under the Memorex brand.

Run by president and CEO Barry Smith, the company’s first move was to broaden the internal talent pool in both management and engineering. Memcorp went on a recruitment spree, incorporating a host of industry veterans, including Davis, the former president of Uniden America, to double the size of the $200 million-a-year company.

Memcorp scooped up former GPX exec David Moser to serve as senior executive VP of sales for audio. Former Uniden executives Jim Cassidy and Rick Lee were brought in to fill out the company’s communications division.

Davis, who was enjoying a brief retirement, said one of the strategic decisions made by Memcorp was to forge closer ties with the other company that shares the Memorex brand, Memorex Media. The relationship between the two companies will be tight starting at CES, Davis said. They are sharing 6,000 feet of booth space at the show and will run cross-promotions at retail throughout the year.

The two companies will even be sharing sales reps where there are not competing product lines, said Davis. A total of 19 sales reps (including Memorex Media reps) will service Memcorp’s accounts across the country.

Where Memcorp will rely on its own reps, Davis noted that experience was paramount. “We didn’t look for some college grad who we could pay $25K and let loose. We went after people with a lot of experience under their belt.”

The next step in growing the company, said Davis, was to broaden the product line. Memcorp was previously manufacturing house-brand audio and video equipment for a few “major accounts.” But the company now has the more ambitious aim of becoming, in Davis’ words, a “broad-based supplier of quality audio, video and communications products.”

One of Memcorp’s big moves, Davis said, will be in communications, specifically home phones.

“We felt that with the disappearance of Sony, Casio and Toshiba, the time was right to enter this market,” Davis said. “It still has a lot of life left in it, especially if you introduce some innovative products.”

The company created an independent engineering firm, called Meridian Concepts, staffed with former Uniden engineers and charged with developing communications product exclusively for Memcorp.

The first fruits of Meridian Concepts’ work for Memcorp will be seen at CES.

Memcorp’s phone strategy is two-fold: two lines of upscale, high technology products, and two lines of lower end price sensitive product.

“The key to keeping phone prices up at retail is new technology and we feel we’ve brought to market some very interesting technology,” Davis said. “We’ve shown it to our dealers and the reception has been, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive.”

The new technology involves what the company claims is the first ever combination of Bluetooth and USB connectivity with home phone technology. The Bluetooth multi-handset phone system lets users add up to a total of seven cordless handsets or wireless headsets for receiving incoming calls. Each handset also comes with a USB port so users can plug them into their PCs, make Internet calls or download MINI music for different phone rings.

Then there is the docking station, which allows users to plug in their cell phones and make landline calls over their cellular phone with their landline cordless phone. Or, users can receive cell calls on their landline cordless. This system, available in a 900MHz DSS cordless, 2.4GHz DSS cordless and one corded version will help bridge the gap between mobile and home telephony, said Davis. It will also keep home phones relevant as wireless continues to grow.

Memcorp will compliment the high-end telephony technology with lower-end product, largely because of retailer demand. “We didn’t want to come out with lower end products, but when we spoke with our dealers they said they’d support us on the high end if we supported them on the low end,” Davis said.

The company will have two lines of analog cordless phones, one line of 900MHz and the other in 2.4GHz.

Davis also said there would be aggressive expansion of the audio and video product lines with 11 new Karoke machines, a single cassette radio, dual cassette radio, CD+G, CD+G with cassette, CD+G with dual cassette, and a CD+G dual cassette/AM-FM.

In video the company will bow a 20-, 24-, and 27-inch flat screen TV, a 13- and 19-inch TV/DVD combo unit; a three disc DVD player, and a dual deck DVD/VCR player.

There will also be seven new designs in portable CD boom boxes and six new designs in personal CD players including three CD/MP3 combo players and a hard disc drive personal player.

“I’m very excited about the company and the industry,” Davis said. “I think there’s a lot we can accomplish. If all they were talking about is a $9.95 analog phone, I would’ve stuck to playing golf.”