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Retrofit, Remodeling Get CEDIA Expo Focus

Retrofit, remodeling, and diversification opportunities along with more affordable home-control systems will move to the top of the agenda for many installers and exhibitors at next month’s CEDIA Expo.

With new-home construction at historic lows, the custom-install industry’s performance remained “a bit mixed” in the weeks leading up to the show, but the industry has begun to turn around in geographic pockets for installers who have targeted the retrofit and remodeling markets, diversified into new product categories to such as central vacuums to “capture more dollars per address,” and “taken the time to work on their business,” said CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin.

Because of the downturn in new-home construction, installers will find more products targeted to the retrofit and remodeling markets than they did at previous Expos, Baldwin predicted. More affordable control systems will also put in a more prominent appearance in part because of the economic downturn, he said.

Such products, however, are also positioned to prepare the industry for a future in which multiroom-A/V and home-control systems become mainstream, Baldwin contended. “Manufacturers are looking ahead,” he said. “Manufacturers are not just looking at early adopters but also at the early majority.”

In the short term, Baldwin is “bullish” about the industry’s 2010 prospects as the country works off its inventory of unsold new homes and installers adjust their operations to diversify into new products and attack the retrofit and remodeling markets more forcefully. Some installers have gone after the retrofit and remodeling markets in by building relationships with real-estate agents who sell existing homes and with landscapers for outdoor speaker-systems installations.

When the economy recovers, the custom industry “will slingshot” because consumer adoption is up, the market is getting younger, and younger consumers “expect performance” in home systems. Growth in the next decade will be “explosive,” Baldwin predicted.

For the past 24 months, however, the industry has been struggling. One major supplier estimated that the multiroom-A/V market is off 30 percent. The struggle is reflected in the number of expected Expo exhibitors, now numbering 413, down from the 2008 show’s approximate 570.

Exhibiting companies attending the show with retrofit-targeted products include Russound and Nuvo, whose systems distribute music over a home’s existing powerlines. For its part, Schlage will exhibit at its own booth for the first time with door locks and thermostats equipped with wireless Z-Wave for the retrofit market.

In a variation on the retrofit strategy, custom-installation suppliers SpeakerCraft and Proficient will display their first home-theater A/V receivers. In part, the receivers give installers an opportunity to sell products to previous customers who purchased those brands’ multi-room-audio systems. In addition, the receivers give the suppliers an opportunity to capture a greater share of dollars when a custom system is installed.

Also at the show:

  • more audio suppliers will focus on playing back streaming Internet content as well as downloaded content;
  • SpeakerCraft will unveil its IP-based A/V distribution system, called Nirv;
  • companies such as Crestron will display products intended to distribute HDCP-protected Blu-ray video around the house; and
  • post-processiong audio technologies such as Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz will appear in more A/V receivers.

Here’s what other suppliers plan:

  • AmbiSonic Systems, a startup focused on the high-performance landscape-audio market, will make its industry debut.
  • Audio Design Associates will show its first two preamp processors with HDMI repeater connections and decoding of all Blu-ray surround formats. They are the Suite 7.1 HD at $5,499 and the Cinema Rhapsody Mach IV.
  • Bowers & Wilkins will show its first in-wall subwoofer, which fits between standard 2×4-inch stud bays.
  • Classé Audio will launch a new series, the Custom Theater (CT) series of four amplifiers and surround-sound preamp/processor.
  • Definitive Technology will go to the CEDIA Expo with the first of its thinnest in-room speakers to date, the 1.5-inch-deep two-way Mythos XTR-50 LCR, and with the first LCR speakers in its custom series of Disappearing In-Wall speakers.
  • Induction Dynamics will launch its on-wall ID speaker series to sonically match its IW in-wall speakers and ID in-room speakers.
  • On-Q/Legrand will display the new Unity Home System, which integrates the control of three separate Studio Collection home systems and is targeted to first-time new-home buyers and production homes because of their price and ease of setup.