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CR Talks To: Rich Taylor, Marketing Manager, Parts Express : Surviving & Growing With Parts Express

Audio-focused distributor concentrates on servicing the integrator, providing exclusive solutions.

July 2011 By Interview by Nancy Klosek

CustomRetailer: When was the company founded, and what product categories do you focus on carrying for your dealer and integrator customers?

Rich Taylor: The company was started in 1986 as a parts distribution company for consumer electronics service and repair. Primarily, in the ’80s, VCRs were popularly repaired items, and a lot of the service parts came from Parts Express. As the end product evolved into a disposable item, we decided to focus primarily on audio products. That’s our strength—anything audio. We distribute over 15,000 items, and it’s a full spectrum of products—home A/V, to finished audio products, to parts and components such as raw speaker drivers, all the way to security and surveillance equipment. We now have five or six core categories we focus on.

We also have test and measurement equipment and manufacture our own, internally developed products primarily sold under the Dayton Audio brand. One example is our OmniMic, which is a frequency measurement system developed in-house that an integrator can use to optimize the audio in a commercial or home audio environment. Under Dayton Audio, we design and develop raw speakers, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, all the way to LCD mounts and certified HDMI cabling—about a thousand items.

A lot of companies that deal with China will merely identify a product and just put their name on it; we don’t do that. We have our own anechoic chamber so we measure the products for performance and value before we actually go into production. We’ve worked with third-party engineers such as Joe D’Appolito in designing and optimizing our products. If we have a product where we feel we need outside development, we will work hand-in-hand with industry professionals. 

CR: Talk about how the products you distribute meet integrators’ needs. What it is about your lines that will help them be more profitable?

Taylor: We use our local dealers and integrators here in Ohio to help us design feature sets; they tell us what they’re trying to accomplish in their installs and we work with them on incorporating their needs. We have our own electronics line of amplifiers, sub amps and multi-channel amps for zoned audio—designed in-house.

On the speaker side, we’re very strong in subwoofers, especially low-frequency reinforcement, and we make true high-performers. We also do contract-type bundles of in-ceilng and in-wall speakers. Even with the housing market decline, we’re still strong in those areas.

We want to make sure we offer products that are of an exclusive nature for our dealers. A lot of people will price-shop their home audio and video needs. What we want to do is offer products that are “unshoppable.” A Dayton Audio product is really unshoppable outside Parts Express; that way, it’s not a price issue with a customer.
Because we carry such a broad line, our speakers, for example, can reach anywhere from a DIY speaker builder to a small OEM. On the wholesale side, we sell a lot of Dayton Audio equipment for commercial installers.

We regiment our dealer base strongly, and each approved dealer is assigned their own representative who knows their business. We have technicians on staff who are ready to support the product. We think that’s important. A lot of people look at the Internet and say they don’t need that personalized approach. But in today’s economy, you do need an in-house expert who knows what’s selling for other installers, and to make sure you’re fully aware of opportunities that exist.

CR: What are some important initiatives you’re executing in 2011 that will help retailers and integrators make more money? And what categories are you expanding on for this year?

Taylor: There will be a big push this year in surveillance. We try to focus on affordable, value-driven equipment in that category, and we decided to create our own brand called Talos, a few months ago. Basically, it allows someone who is in home A/V installation to start incorporating surveillance products into their more affordable home installations.

Even though our strength is in audio products, we were hearing from our installers and integrators in the field that we needed to carry more surveillance products. A lot of the sales opportunities for custom installers now include surveillance.

We’re also expanding more in pro audio—cables, interconnects, stands, mounts.
Another area is commercial sound reinforcement. We’re expanding there, and one of the new services we offer is in-house speaker repair. Let’s say an installer is doing a project in a church and they’re using a hanging speaker, and the speaker is blown. It could be a $300 or $400 replacement. The installer can get onto our website, pull up that particular driver, and get a quote to have it restored to its original performance.

A lot of times it’s more cost-effective to just re-cone, re-foam and repair an existing item than it is to purchase a new speaker. We’ve had quite a few pro-audio-music-engineering-type customers needing that service so we started doing it. It’s a complement to our pro-audio business.

When you look at conventional distribution in this market, they’re very focused on staple products like in-walls, in-ceilings, stands, mounts. We do all that, but we do a lot more. We have products that are very application-oriented. If we see installers wanting to do something, we develop what they need, as we did with the OmniMic. With that product, they can easily optimize the sound of their installation, and the installer can show the customer how he has optimized it. And really, if you’ve got an educated customer, you’ve got a customer for life. When you start showing you’re an expert, they’ll keep coming back or refer you to other jobs. Everybody likes to refer a customer to an expert.

CR: What will you show at CEDIA EXPO?

Taylor: We’ll show audio test and measurement equipment. Our own Shadow mounts line should also draw attention there. We’ll also show our subwoofers, which are affordable and have been very well-received; they use our in-house-developed drivers and some use made-in-USA drivers. Also, we’ll have our full-spectrum-frequency amplifiers like the MA-1240, a 12-channel, 40-watt distributed audio amp, which is also an EXC!TE Award winner.

Parts Express can provide a lot of products that are of an unusual nature—hard-to-find, complementary solutions.

In conventional distribution, people look to larger companies but some of them don’t offer as much as we do to a smaller business. They re-sell branded products to anybody. We don’t do that. But if dealers need a service item—a cable, a connector, a raw speaker—we specialize in those areas, and people in the industry know to come to us to buy. Our wholesale and retail sides complement one another. We have a nice niche and are focused on what the customer wants—to help small-to-mid-sized companies survive and grow in an economy that has been uncertain for them for a couple of years. We stay away from products that don’t allow our customers to be competitive. CR



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