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What Will Be The Hottest Tech This Holiday? The Distributors Weigh In

4K TV, smart speakers to top Santa’s lists

In this third and final installment of TWICE’s annual pre-holiday roundtable, leading tech distributors discuss what’s hot for the season of giving ahead.

TWICE: Which products and categories will be the big holiday hits?

Seth Evenson, customer experience management director, AVAD: Consumers now have access to more choices in televisions than ever before and the cost of 4K panels continues to become more affordable, which will drive a lot of consumer electronics purchases through the holiday season.

Also, wireless audio and smart-home integration, such as voice control, continues to grow within the consumer electronics and installation channels, especially for AVAD, as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Andy Zeinfeld, global president, Brightstar Echo and Gear: Right now I’m thinking there are actually several categories positioned perfectly for growth. They include Bluetooth accessories for music, such as speakers and headphones. In general, anything Bluetooth is hot. “True” wireless, for example, is really gaining acceptance in the marketplace.

Also, as “smart” wearables continue to increase in functionality, especially with regard to health and fitness, this in turn leads to greater demand and increased interest in the category.

Wireless charging is really gaining momentum too. This is the future of charging, and I think it’s pretty exciting.

Jack Halperin, senior VP, dealer channel division, Almo: Over the years we have seen larger portions of the annual retail appliance business pushed though the major holiday periods. Black November is now the second-largest promo period after July 4th.

Along with this trend, certain consumer behaviors have also evolved. In certain situations we have seen the dollar value of gifts exchanged with relatives and friends get a little smaller. This offset by higher-value holiday purchases for the family and the home.

We expect to see strong consumer demand for larger-size flat screen TVs, competitively-priced step-up kitchen packages, and laundry pairs. The housing market and kitchen redo business also continue to gain momentum. As a result, we have seen increasing demand for mid-tier-priced microwave drawers, which could be a surprising winner for us over the next four to six months.

Curt Hayes, president/chief financial officer, Capitol: Look for smart speakers to be a big hit, thanks to new models that offer compatibility with Google Chromecast and other platforms.

In general, networked DIY home and entertainment sales are strong and are likely to remain that way through the end of the year. Consumers see how easy it is tie audio, lighting control and small appliance operation to a simple wireless system via Wi-Fi.

Helge Fischer, executive director, Catalyst AV: Things have changed dramatically the last couple of years; networking is now a must for most jobs, and we provide great solutions. Standard products as display panels and audio are still the bread and butter in the industry for obvious reasons, but we cover all areas so our installers can be as efficient and profitable as possible.

Trevor May, executive director, vendor management, D&H Distributing: We don’t expect a significant shift in successful categories. The big drivers will be gaming, laptops, home entertainment products and televisions. While there’s no new console launch this holiday season, there are several terrific Triple-A gaming titles scheduled for release, which tend to escalate awareness of the category.

A new crop of Amazon products announced in September should create excitement over the course of the season. We’re also optimistic that new Apple iPhone accessories will perform well. And although they’ve seen momentum in the past, wearables could emerge as a surprise hit this season, specifically smart watches. Other notable areas may include smart home and networking, in addition to positive growth for our housewares business.

John Yodzis, president/CEO, Dow Electronics: In addition to the traditional big hits of 4K panels from Sony and Samsung, we believe that streaming devices will continue to be popular. Roku and AirTV will be enhanced by off-air antennas, which will have a huge resurgence. Luckily, at Dow we have just under 60 years of off-air experience, and this has really helped us as consumers move away from traditional TV towards streaming and off-air options. Continuing the streaming trend, [wireless] speakers from Sonos and HEOS will get a bump during the holiday season as well.

On the car audio side, CarPlay and Android Auto are big draws in the head units we’re selling. These features make it safer for customers to utilize their phones to stream their favorite sources while in the car.

Fred Towns, president, New Age Electronics: Sales will be largely driven by voice assistants and the products that connect to them, as more consumers embrace the home-control ecosystem in just about every room of the house.

Gaming will continue to perform well as new titles are released and gamers continue to seek the best accessories needed to compete. Electronic transportation will also come into play as more consumers rely on these devices to get around in urban areas, and drones and 2-in-1 PCs will also be hot items.

Tate Morgan, president, Petra Industries: We’re predicting portable Bluetooth devices to show significant growth potential quarter over quarter. The move to eliminate headphone jacks by phone manufacturers has pushed demand for Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Smart-home devices and systems will also continue to be impactful on the market as the home automation trend widens its reach.

Finally, houseware products are a classic staple of Q4 and we expect to see big wins in the category this holiday season.

Dennis Holzer, executive director, PowerHouse Alliance: Demand for networking, security/surveillance and automation continues to be very strong and will continue to be big holiday hits this year. End users have realized the benefits of the smart home, and demand for commercial crossover products continues to increase.

End users are looking to add more and more wireless devices such as cameras, door locks, thermostats and water sensors to their homes, vacation properties and office/work spaces. And they also want the ability to control and monitor the activity of those products remotely on a smartphone or tablet, via an automation system and with voice control.

Simultaneously, demand for networking products and the installation of stronger networks has increased because the abundance of wireless devices puts a lot of strain on a single network. This has led to significant demand for routers, access points and mesh networks.

Marc McClure, senior VP, commercial sales U.S., Tech Data: Looking at market trends, I would expect systems and displays to be big, including 2-in-1 devices and tablet PCs, as users benefit from the computing power of a traditional laptop with the flexibility of a tablet device.

In addition, I would look to strength in virtual reality systems as we continue to see an increase in versatility and application of the technology.

See also: Distributors Riding Full Throttle Into Q4