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Slow Traffic, But High Hopes For CES/Hometech In Dubai

The International CES/Hometech isn’t the International CES in Las Vegas, yet backers of this event, held at the Dubai International Convention Centre here last month, say this market has major growth potential for the CE business.

This second annual event is still finding its way, with slow floor traffic noticeable, but the vast annual growth potential of the region — 8.1 percent forecast by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) for Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Western Europe combined — represents significant opportunities for the CE industry.

Dubbing the UAE “a region the world cannot afford to ignore,” Elizabeth Hyman, CEA’s international VP, told attendees an estimated $1 trillion in construction currently underway in the UAE provides huge potential for the CE industry, particularly in the areas of high-end audio, mobile electronics and gaming. Hyman told attendees that online gaming alone represents $1 billion in global opportunity. For that reason, Hometech added a Game Stage gaming zone sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, NVidia, Microsoft and others this year.

Hometech, held from May 25 through May 27, is a collaboration of CEA and IFA sponsor Messe Frankfurt, and is part of a larger home show that was expected to draw 15,000 trade-only attendees and 250 exhibitors, covering 91,493 square feet of floor space. The single hall devoted to consumer electronics showed everything from air conditioners and microwave ovens to flat-panel TVs and high-end audio.

The eclectic electronics section included distributors of high-end A/V gear including B&W, Meridian, Runco Linn, Loewe and Naim Audio; a 10-vehicle mobile electronics section sponsored by Rockford-Fosgate, Monster, Earthquake and Lightning Audio; the gaming section supported by Microsoft, HP and NVidia; and an array of Asian companies selling everything from vacuum cleaners to flat-panel TVs to bread makers.

It’s the lack of focus that had some exhibitors grumbling during day two of the show. One exhibitor on hand, who was hoping to demonstrate custom turnkey integrated electronics solutions to real estate developers, said, “I’m not sure this is the show for that when we’re 15 meters away from tea kettles.”

Lara Crivellaro, assistant GM for G&BL, an accessories and A/V furniture company based in Italy, was also disappointed by the turnout. The company, which currently distributes its products in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Russia, had hoped to meet with new distributors here. “But the key players are missing,” Crivellaro said. “You don’t see Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Toshiba, and their distributors aren’t here. I thought this show would be more like CES but smaller. Instead, it’s about everything for the home.”

What business G&BL did accomplish was with its current distributor. “And that could have been done somewhere else,” Crivillaro says. Still, she held out hope. “One order would be worth the fare,” she said. “We’ll see.”

For Monster Cable, attendance was a way to gain exposure in the Mideast and to advance consumer electronics in the area (see related story, p. 12). Denise Morales, worldwide sales VP, told TWICE, “It’s a low turnout, but we want to support the industry.” What would make it more successful for a company like Monster Cable would be more visitors from Europe and Eastern Europe, she said. “But I’m not sure if there are enough retailers to support manufacturers making a big investment,” she said.

Monster, a repeat exhibitor from last year, will be back again next year, Morales said. Monster Mideast came with 15 people, but pulling in more of the trade from elsewhere will be hard, she said. “If there’s no new product or technology announcement from the likes of Steve Jobs or Microsoft, it’s hard to attract people.”

One company happy with its results was Al-Futtaim Electronics, part of an 80-year-old UAE conglomerate that owns Dubai’s Plug-ins ElectroniX retail chain and serves as UAE distributor for Panasonic, Sanyo, Toshiba and its own private-label Aftron brand sourced from manufacturers in China and Korea. The company set up a room with various scenarios showing how a Control4 system can be used in the bedroom, living room and throughout the house. Al-Futtaim recently inked its first contract for Control4, a $1.2 million project for 70 homes in the Orange Lake region of Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

Al-Futtaim was also there to announce a training program developed by its installation company, Techserve, along with CEA and its training partner Bedrock Learning. Bedrock’s program teaches the fundamentals of training for system integration. According to CEA, the goal over the next few months is to have a certification program in place for all of the Mideast.