In February, Smarthome forged an alliance with gigantic distributor Ingram Micro, which was seeking a partner to help grow its CE and home automation business. Ingram will carry selected Smarthome-offered home automation products; Smarthome, through a separate reseller contract, sources IT products from Ingram to offer its customers.
Irene Chow, Ingram's CE and home automation category manager, says Smarthome first approached Ingram nearly a year and a half ago, but Ingram, in the early stages of building a strategy to help its IT customers get into the CE market, declined. Last October, however, Ingram made its own overture to Smarthome, seeking to increase its resources in home automation, an "adjacent market" to CE. Says Chow, "If we're going to be successful in this market, we knew we would need a pretty strong partner."
In mid-April, Chow reported Ingram was in the end stages of getting "a couple hundred" Smarthome-offered SKUs loaded into its system. The first Smarthome SKUs should be available to Ingram customers by now.
On May 17, Ingram will open a revamped West Coast Solutions Center that will feature a fully functional digital home showcasing home theater/surround sound, SOHO, conference room and IP surveillance products. Ingram customers can use the facility as a showroom for end-users. Smarthome helped Ingram design the digital home and donated manpower to oversee the technology installations, says Chow. (An East Coast Solutions Center opened in a much smaller location in Ingram's Buffalo, N.Y., facility and includes a smaller home technology demonstration.)
The deal gives Smarthome access to Ingram's customer base, including retailers (big-box nationals, regionals and mom-and-pops), traditional VARs (about 20 to 30 percent of Ingram's VARs do both data and custom installation), electrical contractors, internet resellers and pro/commercial A/V customers, as well as government and higher education customers.
Says Kaur, "It helps to have a $5 billion company as a partner from a business perspective. We hope to learn from them the best practices that a growing company needs to have."