A PURE INSTALL PLAY
Even though central vacuum is not on the minds of most Americans, it's not really a retail product anyway. Requiring pre-installation into a new home, or tearing into walls in a retrofit situation, it's a pure install play. Traditionally, the industry has sold its systems through distributors, wholesalers, appliance dealers, and installers of security systems. In America, at least, it's done all of this to marginal effect for decades.
Now, the industry recognizes a new opportunity to get its systems into American homes—namely, it wants to work with builders, custom home theater/home automation installers and C-tailers (mostly through distributors) to make central vacuum systems as common in new homes as pre-wiring. With consumers more aware and eager to enjoy the benefits of pre-wired entertainment and communications infrastructure, central vacuum manufacturers feel their products can be part of an already attractive turnkey mix, as well as intriguing add-on to the roster in a retrofit installation.
The message to dealers, installers and builders is simple: Install a central vacuum system at the same time you install everything else. Manufacturers promise that such installations are quick (usually much less than a day's labor), relatively simple and, most importantly, highly profitable. Central vacuum manufacturers also are trying to make consumers aware that a typical system can be installed for as little as $1,000 to $1,500, which picks up right above where many of the high-end portables leave off.
"Next to audio/video, we're the second-highest gross profit product among products that low-voltage dealers sell," says Runyan. "Our dealers make around 50 percent profit. It's a great business for the dealers. As the low-volt industry is growing, there is a need for the dealers to sell more high profit items, and that's why a lot of dealers are taking a stronger look at central vacuum systems."