Catalyst AV Focuses On Full Solution
The directors of Catalyst AV, a new group made up of 11 distributors, say they offer what it takes to fill a gap that’s missing in the custom integration market: hands-on service and training that helps dealers build, integrate and install the right solution, and make decent profits while doing it.
“Our approach is more application focused, meaning you come into one of our facilities and I can show you what the product is, how to use it and how to apply it to a project. That’s education, that’s training, that’s something you don’t forget,” said Steve Presti, owner of Easy Access Distribution in Burlington, Ma. “You can get these products almost anywhere, but what you can’t get is that value-added education that’s so necessary to maintain a relationship with the integrator community and bring them to a higher level of performance to make more money.”
The 11 distributors in the group have a total of 16 warehouses spread out across the country and service about 14,000 dealer/integrator customers, group members said. Catalyst is looking for specialty distributors in Ohio and New York to fill out its roster.
Key vendors in the group’s line card include IC Realtime Security Solutions, a supplier of surveillance solutions; Vivitek projectors; Vanco home theater and low-voltage accessories; ICE Cable; and Perfect Path HDMI cables. Catalyst is talking with about six other vendors, including a control company, to flesh out the line card.
The group will put a strong focus on surveillance, networking and video distribution solutions, three areas that most specialty dealers and integrators need help with, the directors said.
“If you look at each of the Catalyst members, you’ll see they’re the predominant choice for their particular marketplace and for education and training,” Presti said.
“In a lot of respects we’re almost like a think tank for integrators and manufacturers. We can put the different pieces of the puzzle together.”
Another piece of the puzzle group directors say they can provide is filling the communication gap that typically exists between manufacturers and dealers.
“All manufacturers have a message that they want to bring out to the field, but getting it from their mouths to the field is sometimes a circuitous route,” Presti said. “We have a direct conduit to our 14,000 dealers. We can take the manufacturers’ message and make sure it’s communicated to the dealers in a way the dealer understands, because often times that doesn’t happen.”
Wally Whinna, president of Allnet Distributing in Elk Grove Village, Ill., and former vice president of sales and marketing at Avad, said recent surveys show the need for distributors is increasing, especially as dealer reliance on just-in-time delivery and technical support grows, and as vendors continue to cut back on the number of field reps that service dealers, a move that further erodes effective communications.
“The vendors really can’t communicate to all of those (dealers and integrators) any more,” Whinna said, adding that a recent survey showed that integrators buy 29 percent of their products direct from manufacturers and 43 percent through distribution.
“How do you keep all of those integrators current on all the new technologies? How do you get them into networking and surveillance? There’s a big need out there for one-on-one dealer/vendor interaction and dealer servicing.”
Just-in-time product delivery has also grown more important as dealers scale back on the amount of products they carry and manufacturers run leaner production schedules.
“A lot more manufacturers structure their inventory flow so there’s nothing left at the end of the month or during black-out periods,” said Mike Hench, president of Electronics Source in Boynton Beach, Fla. “A lot of times a manufacturer won’t have something, whereas a decently stocked distributor will be in position to get it.”
Foremost, though, Catalyst will focus on providing the full solution—products, education, technical support—that specialty dealers and integrators need to get the job done.
“We can sell an entire project: the control system, the audio system, the speakers, the network. We’re in a very unique position to train and service those customers, help them to bid those projects, and help them make sure the products work correctly,” Whinna said. “Vendors really can’t really perform all of those services because they sell a single product. We’re selling a whole solution.” DS