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Possibly A Memorable Week

Attending the CEA Digital Patriots dinner last week, I briefly spoke with Bernie Appel, legendary executive and RadioShack merchant during its climb to the top, and a CE Hall of Famer.

Now a consultant, Bernie and I spoke about the changes in the industry, and we agreed that a normal year in the CE business is like three or four years in any other industry.

Last week could be one of those memorable ones that we might remember six months, a year or a few years from now as the time when the business changed quickly.

The three possibly memorable events include: Amazon creating a wearables section in its CE department; Acer introducing the Liquid Leap wristband and emphasizing the Cloud and marketing to millenials for added measure; and a threesome – Sprint, HTC and Harman — teaming up to develop a smartphone with high-res audio.

Wearables became somewhat of a buzzword last year but really got a firm kickoff as a possible “next big thing” candidate during International CES.

But with Amazon creating a section for it in CE, its time must be now, right? While few know how to define it, the products that comprise the category range from health and fitness products to wearable video cameras, as well as Google Glass (of course) and smart watches. This could be a very hot and varied category for the holiday season.

An unlikely trio — Sprint, HTC and Harman – have combined to develop and introduce something quite surprising and innovative: a phone that features highresolution music playback and enhanced Harman audio features.

A high-res version of HTC’s One (M8) Android smartphone will be sold in Sprint-owned stores. Just as important as getting high resolution in a smartphone is that these products will also be sold in select audio stores.

During the mobile revolution, many audio/video specialty stores have remained on the sidelines due to lack of margins or logistics to carry and sell these products effectively. Now if these audio stores can sell these smartphones well enough, this may prove to be the year independent CE stores will get into the smartphone category.

And Acer’s unveiling of the Liquid Leap wristband last week, even though a U.S. shipment date has not yet been set, is significant because this traditional notebook and laptop player has seen the future and wants to ensure it is considered a player in the brandnew category that was just the gleam in someone’s eye two or three years ago.

At first glance, wearables are, to use an old phrase, “grab and go” products at retail. But they are still new and varied enough that the products have to be explained by salespeople and supported by accessories. Both give retailers opportunities to sell up as well as try an add-on sale.

As I wrote earlier, with strong promotions, wearables could be a very popular category during the fourth quarter. This is why Amazon has created an entire online department, and it’s something more retailers should do in coming months.

All of these developments illustrate the changing innovative nature of the CE business, which presents so many companies of all shapes and sizes opportunities for growth now, and in the future.