HTSA: Use 3D, Tech Expertise For Growth

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SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FLA. — The Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) is emphasizing its early embrace of home connectivity, its expertise in that area, and the opportunity 3D TV will bring as part of its 2010 strategy.

During its spring meeting at the Trump International Beach Resort here last week — dubbed “The Sumptuous Social” — executive director Richard Glikes described his membership as “trusted experts” in his opening remarks.

He said the “four pillars” of HTSA should be “relationship building, idea and information sharing, economies of scale, and program advantages” that can provide profits during a “tough economy.”

Glikes said the goal of HTSA for 2010 is that in “challenging times” members have to “revivify” their businesses with “new life and new ideas.”

HTSA has more than $450 million in sales and 60 members located in 37 states, and had more than 200 vendors, distributors and members in attendance. The first-time vendors attending were Audioquest, Dana Innovations, Powerhouse Dynamics, Primevision by Elite and Panasonic.

The appearance of Panasonic at the HTSA meeting is due to 3D TV, which could be a big opportunity for its members. Kate Beck, senior product marketing manager for displays at Panasonic, said, “One of the key reasons we are here is due to 3D TV, and we know they can explain and sell it.”

Even though Glikes wrote a blog for bemoaning the fact that Panasonic gave Best Buy got the first shot at selling 3D TV, he told TWICE, “We’ll sell a ton of it … probably by midyear when it is off and running.”

His members were just as optimistic about 3D for their market segment. Ken Paulson of Paulson’s Audio Video, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., right outside of Detroit, said that 3D TV is great for his business if for no other reason that consumers have been coming in to take a look.

“The first reaction by some consumers is, ‘We don’t want to pay extra for that,’ but they have come into the store for the demo,” Paulson said. “Once they come in and experience it, plenty have said they like 3D TV.”

He noted that the challenge for his salespeople is to “qualify those customers who only want a HDTV now vs. those who might be early adopters for 3D.”

Wayne Puntel of AudioCraft, based in Cleveland, said that 3D TV is “an important technology … we have an opportunity to follow through and explain it, and sell it.”

Gary Lawson of New Century Stereo noted that specialists “used to be able to introduce a technology like 3D TV to consumers, make a profit for themselves and suppliers, and eventually it would go to the mass market,” but he was just as hopeful that 3D would be a profitable part of the mix when HTSA members get their hands on it.

But 3D TV is just a part of the mix that Glikes and his members feel will create growth. In his opening remarks last Monday night, Glikes thought it was “ironic” that other buying groups are now telling their members that home control and home networking are keys to profitability.

Specialists and custom installers must be more “service oriented” than ever and that changes in the industry, like making home CE more networked than ever before, puts them “in the center of the universe,” Glikes told TWICE.

But, he added, “the problem is that we are not in the iPhone or iPad business,” whose apps may control home systems now and in the future.

As Ingram Micro executives told Glikes recently, they bought DBL because “the IT and CE businesses are becoming one,” Glikes added.

He noted that for years, “many lived off of the flat-panel business, which was great, but now you can’t sustain your business that way.” Specialists and custom installers have to sell home systems and “performance” of those systems — as well as their expertise in installing and servicing complex products.

Of HTSA’s members’ sales, 95 percent are related to installation, Glikes said. The keys to HTSA’s success has to be — in no particular order — “high-performance speakers, high-performance receivers,” and being able to provide service and installation to “differentiate themselves” from the mass market.

Or, as Glikes said to his membership about all of these plans, “Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do!”


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