Magnolia Pays Close Attention To Lucrative Custom Business

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SEATTLE -With 15 percent of its sales volume now coming from custom installs, Magnolia Hi-Fi only foresees this amount growing in the future.

The high-end retailer uses AMX (formerly Panja) home-control systems and in-house programmers to make its final product as user-friendly as possible, said Aaron Miller, general manager of the custom division.

"We can incorporate virtually anything and everything into the touch pad.all of the different subcategories," Miller said, listing climate control, audio/video, satellite TV, cable, lighting and telephones as just some of the possibilities.

President Jim Tweten emphasized that many Magnolia customers' main concern is ease of use. "Anyone can operate [our] touch pad," he said.

Magnolia's custom systems begin around $7,000 and can reach as much as $250,000, Miller said. Sometimes a custom job means simply installing in-wall speakers for a stereo system, while other times it involves constructing a whole-house automation system.

When fulfilling the more complex, complete home systems, Miller explained that the company works hand-in-hand with architects, inserting the whereabouts of the various components right onto the architect's drafts. All systems are wired, programmed and constructed as much as possible at Magnolia to cut down on the actual onsite assembly time.

Magnolia pays close attention to its after sales service, having one person devoted to answering consumers' calls about already-installed systems. Because of this, Miller said, Magnolia can be at a customer's door "in an hour or so."

All of the company's custom orders are filled at its Design Center, which is a separate building next to one of its retail stores in Seattle. The Design Center includes a state-of-the-art boardroom, with remotely operated flat-screen TV, curtains, projection system and sound system; a waiting area that includes a touch-pad-operated CD-changer with in-wall speakers; and a $650,000 home theater room.

"We built this as a statement," Miller said. "We built this to say, we can do whatever it is you want us to do."

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