Jack Wayman probably had one of the best lines at his own memorial, which took place in New York in November.
CEA, which ran a wonderful tribute to the founder of International CES and the industry’s longtime pied piper, showed a highlight video of his career, which included some of his best quips. One of them went something like this: “[CEA] has to be ahead of its members” in showing the future of technology, “but not too far ahead.”
There are a few technologies on this list that may be slightly ahead of the market, but they made an impression – at least on the imaginations of consumers – over the past 12 months.
The year’s not quite over, and anything can and often does happen in the electronics/appliance business before New Year’s Eve, but with that proviso, here is my list of the top 10 stories of 2014:
10 Jack Wayman: This year marked the aforementioned passing of a true industry legend, whose vision in creating International CES and developing what is now CEA helped make consumer electronics one of the dominant industries in the world.
9 Apple acquires Beats Electronics and the Beats Music music-streaming service for $3 billion. Rumors continue about Apple’s plans for the Beats Music service, whether it will be folded into iTunes or become an iOS app, but those mysteries will likely be resolved in 2015.
8 3D Printing and the Internet of Things: Like the other new technologies on this list, there has been plenty of hype about both. Whether they will have an impact for electronics/appliance retailers any time soon is the real question, but consumers are beginning to know more about both and are getting curious, which is always good news for marketers.
7 Drones: Everyone is talking about them. There are plenty of viral videos that have been created by drones, and, more importantly, consumers actually know what drones can now do outside of military purposes. Some are concerned about privacy or safety issues, while others want to buy one. Next year is when you could see a market for the products really build.
6 Wearables: 2014 will be remembered as the year that consumers began to embrace this varied category. It is also being pushed by plenty of top manufacturer and retail brands, including Amazon, Google, LG, Microsoft, Walmart … and the list goes on and on.
5 Bob Lawrence and Bill Trawick step down: Lawrence rebuilt and expanded the old Associated Volume Buyers into BrandSource and helped change the nature of buying groups in this business. Trawick, who already made his mark with P.C. Richard & Son and Conn’s, helped steer the NATM Buying Corp. to greater growth, especially during the Great Recession, and guide it through multiple changes in this industry. Both groups will do fine based on each executive’s contributions to their respective organizations.
4 Electrolux’s $3.3 billion buyout of GE Appliances: While that may be good news for both companies, with Electrolux gaining North American market share, independent electronics/appliance dealers don’t see it as a positive. Dealers interpret it as being one less major majaps player available to them to sell.
3 RadioShack and Sears: Both continued to report bad financial news into December, which does not bode well for their respective holiday seasons or prospects for 2015. The question now is this: If one or both of them depart from the market next year, who will get the share? Just national retailers? Or will independents benefit?
2 Sony PlayStation Vue TV: The new service could be a game changer – for Sony, for the cable/satellite business and for consumers. This is what pundits have been saying PlayStation was supposed to become all along: the hub of the home entertainment system. Market tests began in November but by 2015 we will see if PlayStation- Vue will create plenty of cord-cutting nationwide.
1 4K/Ultra HD. The high-res display technology is finally ready for its close-up this holiday season, with more sets being sold to consumers who see the value in this TV upgrade, even though content is, as usual, lagging behind this new format.
Steve Smith is editor at large of TWICE and was its longtime editor in chief.