Robert Ain

Robert Ain
What’s a Custom Retailer to Do?

Let's begin with The Problem. Over the past 18 months, the financial and business worlds have completely altered. Economic fundamental changes mean that the audio/video industry is forced to change how we do business—in a big way.

A Smart Idea

In my many years of working in the audio/video field, I have met many "smart" people

Are You Commercial?

The current new business opportunity buzz is commercial. Manufacturers are talking about it, reps are talking about it, and even the press is talking about it.  

What Is Working For Custom Retailers?

Our recent survey on brands and security-related products that CustomRetailer readers are selling was a real eye-opener. In the past few months, we have found that selling more products and services to fewer customers can maintain revenues and even grow revenues. Besides wanting to know what products custom retailers are selling, we also wanted to know what is making them profit, how labor costs are fitting into the changing picture and more on the subject of security systems in the custom integration arena.

Making Your Cash Flow


In numerous conversations that CR Editor Maureen Jenson and I have had with custom retailers and integrators, cash flow is one of the most common recurring topics.

The Changing Customer

Recently, I received a call from a custom retailer in the Midwest. He commented that there was no conversation on how customers are changing. This dealer believes his customers are changing, and not necessarily for the good. To paraphrase his comments, he said: I have not seen any mention by you or anyone else on the changes of how customers are dealing with custom retailers.

Think You Have a Brand? Ask These Questions

By responding to the following questions you can determine if you have a brand or not. If you don’t have a brand yet, I’ll give you some ideas on ways to make one in your market.   

Survey Results

What are best practices, neat ideas; and what products are custom retailers selling? Are these products Audio/Video? Are these products Security Systems? If the products selling are security related, what are the specifics? These questions are the focus of this CustomRetailer survey.  

What Has Happened to Specialty Retailing?

Maureen Jenson, Editor in Chief of CustomRetailer, recently shared a letter with me from a specialty retailer who posed the question, “What’s happened to specialty retailing?”

Insight: Making Your Clash Flow

In numerous conversations that CR Editor Maureen Jenson and I have had with custom retailers and integrators, cash flow is one of the most common recurring topics. Although virtually everyone is being affected by the lack of consumer confidence and the market uncertainties, some dealers are able to manage their cash flow better than others... How do you manage cash flow in uncertain times, when sales are not growing, and you are struggling each month to pay the bills? Here are some ways to improve cash flow and deal with the uncertain climate brought on by the downturn in the economy: 1.

What Are You Going to Do at CEDIA This Year?

Each year at this time, I usually write about how one should prepare for the CEDIA EXPO. Getting your numbers ready for meetings with suppliers, assigning staff members to meet with suppliers, educating and training your staff members and networking, networking, networking! Rarely do I speak of a specific product category, but this year is different. This year, the secret word is “SECURITY.” If you go to CEDIA and are not selling security, I want to open your eyes to this growing part of our industry. According to our research, six out of 10 of our readers are not selling security. Those who

Becoming Green

Years ago, if someone called you “green,” they were mocking you for being inexperienced. Today, in consumer electronics, not much has changed. Being “green” describes our industry inexperience and lack of concern toward energy savings. If I asked many of you to describe the power consumption of a 42” plasma versus a 60” rear-projection set, you probably would not know. Our role has not been one of selling, recommending or even mentioning products that are more efficient and use less energy than other products. Rather, it has been selling neat video displays, digital sound and automation to customers that want to buy

Think You Have a Brand….Ask These Questions

By responding to the following questions you can determine if you have a brand or not. If you don’t have a brand yet, I’ll give you some ideas on ways to make one in your market. Branding Questions Is your location a destination for consumers? What image does your brand give when it is mentioned to consumers? Does your brand create a need or fulfill a need that consumers have in a product or service? Do you sell your brand (name) or only the products you stock and display? How important is price in your market positioning? Is your name

Are You Managing Your Projects or Are They Managing You?

Survey 1) What percentage of your business involves some component of delivery or installation? ______% 2) If you take the above number, what percentage of that revenue is non-product related? For example, if your total gross revenue is $1,000,000 per year and the percentage that has delivery or installation component is 80 percent or $800,000, what percentage of this $800,000 is charges for delivery, installation, project management, drafting or programming? ________% 3) Do you bill for each of the following separately? Installation ____YES ____NO Project Management ____YES ____NO Drafting ____YES ____NO

Global Design

We are now in the world of Global Design where products cross borders and cultures. For many years, designs were very regional. Designs were not only country specific, but, in the U.S., even specific to a particular part of the country. For years, many retailers acted regionally. A few years ago, I was speaking to the CEO of a large audio/specialty chain with stores in the central U.S. We talked about neat European metal-encased loudspeakers and this CEO thought they were interesting products. He continued by stating that he would not carry these products as his customers only wanted large speakers, mostly in