15 Minutes With:: Dean Miller, CEO Lenbrook America
Distribution: We have been extremely fortunate to renew relationships with a number of the country’s iconic dealers. Not only getting them back on board, but genuinely partnering with them in specific sales and marketing strategies to our mutual benefit. We have also begun several other new dealer relationships either by targeting very specific dealers or through our relatively new involvement in the HTSA and ProSource industry groups.
TI: You introduced a new merchandising strategy last year, the Computer Audio Showroom. What’s the latest on this development?
DM: The Computer Audio Showroom (CAS) was developed as an education and demonstration room for specialty dealers to help their customers better understand this technology, how to get it, how to store it and transport it, and importantly, how to make it better. We partnered with five dealers to install these showrooms as more or less beta-sites, and I’m pleased to report that all five have gone quite well and in fact, they’re thriving.
For the past several months, we’ve been working on specific refinements to the showroom that include validating the efficacy of each zone (we have completely changed one of the six zones), the showroom messaging, communication and name, and most importantly, coming up with a design that is truly modular and less expensive.
This work is just about finished and we’ll be announcing this new format to our dealers very soon. I expect that we will install somewhere around 12 to 18 new showrooms this year.
TI: What do you see as the role of the AV brick-and-mortar specialist in today’s market? What suggestions might you have for them to compete?
DM: Our industry has undergone drastic changes over the years. The CE industry, like others, continues to evolve based largely upon fundamental technologies, products and distribution. As any industry evolves, it usually consolidates, fractures and fragments, and also creates new opportunities—almost like a law of nature.
The position of the specialty dealer network has been, and will continue to be, strong differentiation with a value-added proposition in the areas of education, product and service. The AV specialist needs to assess their resources and core competencies where they can best compete effectively, efficiently and economically.
By and large, specialty dealers started out selling more sophisticated, higher quality audio products. For many, this was born from their personal passion for music. For many, it was a hobby. This evolved into the audio/video specialist, which evolved into the home theater specialist. Along the way, custom installation was added to the mix.
Today, there are a multitude of niche markets or segments that include all the above and various facets of home technology integration such as lighting, security, auto-drapes/blinds, networking, environmental control and others. These markets can be residential, commercial, houses of worship, boardroom-corporate and/or mobile (cars, buses, planes, trains). The AV specialist has become the technology specialist.
I also want to point out that we have a large number of dealers doing excellent business in two-channel, high-end audio. Things do indeed go full circle.