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Buying Groups : Group Dynamics 2011

CustomRetailer canvassed buying group leaders who cater to the specialty retail/custom community to gauge market trends, member needs and future-of-the- industry projections. Here’s what they had to say.

July 2011 By Interviews By Nancy Klosek

CustomRetailer: What major market and/or product trends will exert an influencing momentum on the businesses of your specialty/integrator membership through the rest of this year?

Richard Glikes, Executive Director, HTSA (Home Technology Specialists of America): In TV, I think people are more hopped up about Internet TV than 3D. Some of the menu systems have gotten a lot easier to use, and a lot of the offerings are much broader. There seems to be a move among our members into thinking about security, if they were not in that business before. I know we're doing more camera business among the group. They have been handing that business off to partners they work with, and some have taken it in house, which I think more will do.

Also, audio seems to be strong. We're selling more turntables and high-end speakers than ever. Computer audio is also very strong. During a recent members' conference call, we shared photos of nice displays. It's all in the in-store setup and it ties together, too, with headphones. You can do these "personal stations" that are cool and don't take up much space.

Short term, the summer doldrums have hit and things are languishing a bit in this nice weather, where people aren't thinking about what to do inside. Our outdoor products are very hot, though—high-end sound systems and outdoor TV installations. Long term, I think we'll be shifting marketing again as to who we go after and how we connect with clients, but I can't be too specific as yet.

Jeannette Howe, Executive Director, Specialty Electronics Nationwide: The three long-term opportunities for success that will require integration are smart-grid appliances, aging-in-place control systems and surveillance. These will keep the integration community in business and working. The question I keep having to ask myself is, 'What happens when TVs are free?' Well, they kind of are! We're selling them for what we buy them for. So what are the other technologies we can embrace as an integration community that will keep us afloat? TV is still a cornerstone, but it needs to be integrated, too.

Regarding smart-grid appliances, it's an early technology; we'll see a little bit of in the fourth quarter of this year but I think the real push will come in 2012 and 2013. We're seeing the transition now with smart meters. Here in Southern California, I've been notified by my electric company that I'm getting a smart meter. The demand for smart appliances and technologies will increase as people start seeing that fluctuation in their electric bill. Once that meter goes onto the side of the house, you'll see the electric bill go up.



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