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PARA Embraces Custom-Only Dealers

PARA has signed up about a dozen custom-only dealers as members in the months following a change in bylaws to expand membership to custom installers who don’t sell products over-the-counter.

“In the past, there was a perceived separation between PARA and CEDIA, but our members are doing more custom, and custom installers need information on basic business skills,” said executive director Debra Smith.

The bylaw changes allow only “some of the highest levels” of custom-only dealers to become PARA members, she said. To exclude home-based businesses, PARA requires that installers operate a showroom, even if by appointment only. The bylaws also require members to buy some products direct from manufacturers rather than obtain product solely through distributors.

PARA isn’t launching an aggressive marketing campaign to sign up custom-only members, Smith said, but “we are extending the invitation.”

PARA president David Stollmack said the two associations have complementary missions: “CEDIA has a mission, and so does PARA, but we don’t address each other’s [mission] in a big way.” PARA members, he said, are presidents and key management, whereas CEDIA members include installers and salespeople. Stollmack pointed out that his salespeople and installers attend the CEDIA Expo.

The two associations’ annual conferences are also different, said Stollmack. PARA’s conference is “positioned above the buy-sell relationship,” whereas CEDIA’s annual event, in addition to its educational mission, incorporates a major trade show.

PARA’s embrace of custom-only dealers underscores the dramatic shift that has taken place in recent years in the A/V specialty channel. Custom sales among specialty AV dealers are rising sharply, and in recent years, some dealers have de-emphasized retail by scaling back their product selection and retail displays to devote more energy to custom.