Origin of the Species
The Evolution of the Modern C-tailer
By Jessica Millward>
Meet John Q. Public. John loves the idea of a custom-installed home theater in his den. He's also interested in connecting his household PCs into a single networked system. If he was aware of the options, he'd also be a prime candidate for automated lighting and a security system for his home. In shopping for these technologies, John will want to personally experience a broad selection of components and configurations, and will require well-informed advice from an experienced specialist. Being the quintessential one-stop shopper, he'd like all this, and maybe a pair of headphones, to be available in one location.
Hence the custom retailer, or C-tailer, is born. As CE products become more sophisticated, there's been a growing demand for service professionals to integrate those products into the consumer's living environment. Until recently, personalized CE installation has been handled mainly by independent design and installation specialists serving highly affluent customers. But now, with interest in custom installation arising across a much broader segment of the CE field, both traditional installers/designers and larger chain stores are presented with tremendous new market opportunities. Consumer electronics retailing is being re-invented.
The C-tailer's mirror has two faces. On one side is the independent installer who has established authorized dealer status with manufacturers, or even opened a showroom. The other is the traditional CE retailer who is now in the position of having to offer in-home installation services. Both sides, to some extent, are presented with a Catch 22 business proposition: Be able to offer individualized service in a standardized way. Commodification, of course, is the antithesis of the custom-install concept. But C-tailers must now find a way to create job "profiles" to the extent that they can be reliably and profitably replicated.
CUSTOM, BY ANY OTHER NAME