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Sensory Science Makes Its Mark

Armed with a new logo and a restructured brand strategy, Sensory Science is expanding its presence with a program for virtually every level of consumer electronics retail distribution.

Ralph Palaia, sales and marketing senior VP for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company, said the Go-Video name that had previously identified the company and helped to define it as North America’s premiere dual-deck VCR supplier is now merely a brand name for one of the company’s multi-pronged CE operations.

Sensory Science also handles U.S. sales and distribution for high-end audio components from California Audio Labs, sophisticated televisions from European TV manufacturer Loewe Opta for the upper end of the television market, and cutting-edge video products from Cinevision.

Sensory Science continues to expand its distribution at a rapid pace, recently adding the NATM buying group to its ranks of distribution partners.

Good old Go-Video, meanwhile, continues in its dominant role as a supplier of dual-deck VCRs to the mass market, which continues to grow for the company. It is also adding product lines of interest to volume CE accounts and mass merchants.

Palaia said dual-deck sales are up 62.7% year-to-date as of March 31 for Go-Video, and sales in the fourth quarter of 1998 were up 101%, “and that’s despite the $69 VCRs out there.”

The company continues to source decks made to its specifications from Japanese and Korean sources, offering dual-decks with vertical (stacked) or horizontal (side-by-side) transport alignments, respectively.

Part of that success Palaia attributed to some of the most aggressive advertising and promotion in the company’s history. He said calendar-year 1998 was the first year that Sensory Science had a “seven-figure” ad budget, and all of that was behind dual-deck products.

The company had a 50% market share increase on the year in 1998 and shipped 30,000 units in October alone. Due to the price premium commanded by dual-deck products – a category for which Go-Video has a virtual exclusive in the U.S. – “our dollar share is two-and-a-half times our unit market share,” Palaia said.

As for new products, Go-Video will be used for DVD players. The company this year will introduce two DVD home theater systems that combine A/V receivers with single-disc DVD players. One model will offer a built-in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital decoder to a 40-watt per channel receiver, while the other will add DTS decoding and boost the output to 75 watts per channel.

“Our positioning of these products is very clear,” Palaia stated. “Pricing $600 and above is a component purchase.” With leader DVD models hitting the market in the $199-$249 range, “we’ll shoot for pricing in the $400-$600 range.”

Another category to debut under the mass-market brand is an MP3 audio player slated for June. At press time, the company was determining a name for the product, but Palaia said Sensory Science has big plans for the market, in content and software, as well as hardware. “It’s all part of our value-added concept,” he said. “If we are going to be in mainstream retail we have to ask, `What can we add?’ “

Although sold to retail under the Go-Video brand, the product will be offered direct to consumers from the Sensory Science web site. Palaia said that move is a measure of the Internet-centric nature of the product, which will appeal to Internet users in the 14-30 age range. It will be the first of a series of MP3 audio products the company will handle.

California Audio Labs is also growing dramatically, he said. The brand recently added 60 independent audio dealers. California Audio Labs, Cinevision and Loewe products will be sold through separate groups of reps, while Go-Video sales are handled through an in-house sales force.

Although Go-Video will be used for the first MP3 audio player, Palaia said California Audio Labs’ reps will be able to sell the unit, as well as an upcoming high-end, uniquely designed Go-Video dual-deck VCR, to dealers who are not served by Go-Video salespeople.

The first Loewe TV sets started shipping in December, but the company didn’t begin delivering the full line until March. Currently, all of the Loewe sets for the U.S. are capable of displaying digital signals in SDTV-quality 480p scan format.

The company “has identified” 600 A/V dealers as targets for the higher-end lines, but Palaia suspects that only about 500 storefronts are suitable for California Audio and Loewe lines. Also, 34 of the 38 members of the Home Theater Sales Association have signed on.