The Coming Crush
If it were only structured wiring that VCS was offering, at least some C-tailers could sleep better, particularly ones who have a retail business to go along with their structured wiring and installation work. But VCS will also offer distributed audio systems, including the A/V gear, as well as lighting, security, motorized everything — the works. The company is in also in active discussions with CE partners to offer electronics and other custom install necessities. Considering the extensive warehouse operations already in place in all the states covered by VCS's parent company, product logistics wouldn't be a problem. Suddenly, it's not good to compete with the phone company.
Of course, some crises are opportunities in disguise. In the case of Verizon and the other Telcos that will naturally follow in their respective regions, C-tailers might find themselves with a new friend. VCS has talked about partnering with local retailers to offer higher-end services than the company is targeting for its customer base, and actually ran such a trial in Virginia. Referrals from the phone company wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
LIVING IN THE LAND OF THE LARGE
Will it be possible for small, independent C-tailers to survive the coming crush? Perhaps it's another opportunity in disguise. For one, not everyone thinks that the big chains will pursue the market with any real persistence. Says Rich Glikes, executive director of the Home Theater Specialists Association, "I think the big guys will fail miserably at this. They can't do what we do, they can't manage labor, there are too many variables. They're going to learn a horrible lesson. They'll learn very quickly that they won't make money on labor — it's one of the fallacies of this business. If you do try, you'll price yourself out." Pricing yourself "out" would be pretty foreign territory for the big-box stores, and it will be interesting to see what the resulting fall-out will be, not only in installation prices, but perhaps in hardware prices as well.