July 2008 Issue


A ‘Clear’ Picture

Every young manufacturer has growing pains. Five-year-old upstart Screen Research experienced one last year when it came to the decision that it was time to sever its relationship with StJohn Group, Inc., which was at the time the exclusive distributor of Screen Research products. But there are times when you need the support of industry veterans to establish your name on the market, and there are times when you need to step out on your own and reach out to your clients without a middleman. The last couple years have been filled with moments like that for Screen Research, and it’s sure to face

A Lesson from Geeks

All custom installers take heed. I have a dear friend who just moved into a new home. He wanted a flat panel, which needed to be wall-mounted. Sometimes it’s just easier with friends (no profit) to allow them to buy from a third party. In this case, I made arrangements for him to buy from a friend of mine at a wholesale price and everyone was happy. When it came time for the install, once again, I referred him to a third party. As we all know, some work is better done by others. The plasma is mounted (I let the installer sell the

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

Building E-Waste Volume & Efficiency

For David Thompson, director of Panasonic North America’s corporate environmental department, it’s recycling déjà vu all over again. In the 1990s, Thompson took a leave of absence from Panasonic to help start the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), a non-profit formed in 1994 in response to multiple states requiring manufacturers and retailers to collect rechargeable batteries. The success of the RBRC’s national battery recycling program, which featured actor Richard Karn (“Al Borland” of TV’s Home Improvement) as its spokesperson, was able to prevent an “increasingly difficult patchwork of state laws” regarding battery recycling from emerging, Thompson said. Now Thompson is heading up the

Business Climate-Conscious

Perhaps you have yet to rent “An Inconvenient Truth.” Maybe you honestly don’t lose sleep over the use of paper OR plastic bags. Do you cast a suspicious eye at “green” packaging labels, figuring much of it is marketing hype, and try to gracefully avoid those folks with the clipboards at your local Whole Foods urging you to sign a pledge to reduce your carbon footprint? It’s O.K. You don’t have to be a Prius-driving, meatless chicken salad-loving environmental activist to keep reading this article. You can be weary or even wary of the “green movement.” Though there are likely untold

Capitol Sales Gives Dealers a “Differentiator”

While manufacturers were well represented at Capitol Sales’ 13th annual Dealer and Technology Showcase, the St. Paul, Minn.-based distributor put a stronger focus than in the past on education to help its dealers improve business and increase their competitive edge in a tough economic environment. “Product is essentially product, but business always evolves,” said Curt Hayes, Capitol Sales’ president and chief financial officer, referring to the nine or so different classes featured at the showcase. “We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to help our dealers with their businesses?’ The education and training is our differentiator.” The 75 education tracts included classes

Cool Stuff for a Hot Summer!

Roll out the red carpet, cue the lights and roll cameras! Yes, it is that time of year for our manufacturer partners to enter the 2008 EXC!TE Awards competition, where our crack editorial staff determines what products have garnered the most exc!tement over the course of 2008. This year, our entry process can be found online, and only online, at www.customretailer.net/2008exciteballot/. Please make this a priority! You know the old saying—if you don’t enter, you can’t win! Deadline for entry is August 15, 2008. Make a note to Save the Date to attend our annual fun-filled EXC!TE Awards party at CEDIA EXPO on Thursday,

CR’s Customer Satisfaction Award for July: Impressing the Unexpected

Integration Controls of St. Louis, Mo. Integration Controls proves that when you pay careful attention to a client’s needs and cater to their requests, you get incredible results. Cathy Herman, of Midwest Therapeutic Endoscopy Consultants, is clearly impressed and appreciative of the time Integration Controls gave to the project along with their respect for the unique environment in which they had to work. Shining through everyday work was Integration Control’s commitment to customer satisfaction and high-quality installation. Cathy Herman isn’t the only one who’s ready to congratulate this company for its dedication—CR also commends Integration Controls and is proud to present it with the

Distributed A/V

ADA (AUDIO DESIGN ASSOCIATES) Richard Stoerger, Vice President & COO PRODUCT/TECH TRENDS: Multi-room A/V is like a slow-moving ship because, unlike home theater, significant advances ease into trends over time. For example, video distribution and two-way metadata have been around in ADA’s world for 25 and 19 years, respectively. Today, distribution of video is a hot button in estate installations while text feedback makes it possible to remotely navigate entertainment options from the largest touch-screen to the smallest keypad. Neither development is new or groundbreaking, but both have evolved into today’s “hot buttons.” THE MARKET: If there is one thing that has helped make

Flanner’s eCycling Taps Demand

Within the first hour of Flanner’s Home Entertainment’s eCycling event, held in partnership with Sony and Waste Management on April 26-27, police had to be called to help direct traffic. During the 11-hour two-day event, roughly 3,100 cars drove onto Flanner’s lot to drop off a total of 36,405 lbs. of eWaste—enough to fill to 17 semi-trailers. The weekend also marked the debut of the Flanner’s “It’s easy being green with your home entertainment” brochure of “green” tips for purchasing, using and disposing of electronics. “I was shocked and thrilled by the response,” says Flanner’s President John Flanner. “It clearly showed that there’s a

Good News! Gas Prices Climb Over $4 a Gallon

It’s getting harder to watch the news every day. The recent cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China have devastated entire communities and left millions homeless. We’re still at war in Iraq, facing a nuclear threat with Iran and watching mounting tensions throughout the Middle East. The dollar is weak and the Federal Reserve Bank hinted at rising inflation. Truck factories are closing and airline losses are in the billions. The good news, though, is that gas prices are over $4 a gallon. Good news? Elly, surely you’ve lost your mind. Who could find anything good in record-high gas prices? Here’s how

Green Shorts

Nationwide Division Taps Energy Star, ISF for Energy Savings Nationwide Marketing Group has long had a deep connection to the federal Energy Star program, given the buying group’s roots in the appliance industry. Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide, says the group’s custom A/V-centric division will also leverage the program as Energy Star becomes more active in the CE side as well. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revised its Energy Star specification for televisions. Effective Nov. 1, 2008, TVs that carry the Energy Star label will be up to 30 percent more efficient than conventional models and will save energy while

Integrators Discourse on Distributed A/V

What does the installation crowd say it wants from manufacturers when it comes to distributed audio/video gear? The quick answer: Simplicity, standardization and deeper levels of interoperability among brands. And the good news for installers is that suppliers, with each succeeding product generation, are moving swiftly in those directions. Eric Wachenschwanz, lead technician at Memphis, Tenn.-based Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment, yearns for an across-the-board simplicity along the lines of one of his favorite brands in the field, Control4. “For lots of customers,” he says, “you install equipment and they live with it, but they don’t understand it. With the Control4 stuff, though, no matter

Jail Time for a Mix CD?

For many years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have been attempting to override the accepted historical precedents governing the transactions enabling people to enjoy video and music. Dissatisfied with the standard understandings both customers and sellers had established through (as Carl Sagan used to say) billions and billions of sales—understandings that had been repeatedly upheld by the courts—the MPAA, in particular, as led by its now-deceased activist president, Jack Valenti, sought no longer to sell copies of music and video, but rather to license their use to customers. A Little History In all industries,

Know Where You Are or Where You’re Going?

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. —Dwight D. Eisenhower Not long ago I decided to take half a day and straighten my office. In the process, I came upon a three-ring binder that contained the strategic plan from 2003. The plan described Niles’s situation at the time. We were a company whose core competency was passive analog distributed audio sold through specialty retailers and we were facing a transition to an active digital world. The original iPod had just been introduced; XM and Sirius were launching; touchscreens were becoming popular—and we had

Live e-Learning Webinars

As travel costs rise and small businesses struggle with the effects of a lagging economy, elective travel expenses can become increasingly difficult to justify. At the same time, periods of slow business offer the chance to invest some time in strengthening your business through strategy, education and training. In response to the current demand for accessible education, CEDIA University is offering e-Learning courses in a live Webinar format. These instructor-led courses, adapted from CEDIA’s most popular titles, provide the interactive experience of live instruction in a travel-free format. CEDIA’s live e-Learning includes curriculum from all five CEDIA University colleges: Electronic Systems Business (ESB),

No Time For Complacency ...and How Digital Downtown Wowed Lower Manhattan!

This issue is dedicated to discovering exactly where our industry stands on the “green” subject. What are the manufacturers doing? What are the custom integrators/retailers doing? What do your customers really want? Do they even care? CustomRetailer’s key reporters have been looking into this for months, with some surprising results. In Los Angeles, where I live, I follow the housing market rather closely. A friend of mine, a “Realtor to the Stars” and other high-end clients, has told me the homes that are selling have various forms of “Green Initiatives” in place such as temperature, lighting, drapery control and reuse of groundscape water,

Sunfire’s Bob Carver

CustomRetailer: Audio hobbyists out there may know something of your background, but for those readers who don’t, how did you get involved in audio—are you a hobbyist?   Bob Carver: Since the age of three, I’ve had a fascination with sound and vision. That was when my dad showed me what my voice “looked like” on an oscilloscope. I spoke into a mic, saw the waveform dance on the screen, and couldn’t believe that one could see one’s voice. I was hooked. In high school, I read a magazine article about how to build your own amplifier. I tried it and it didn’t

What You See is What You Hear

The key element of all successful businesses is quality communication. Communication actually needs to be more than just “quality”; it needs to be open, frank, concise, succinct, respectful and illuminating. It needs to be so honest that it is even scary at times. So many missteps in business come from a lack of clearly understanding the current situation, the customer’s position, an employee’s needs or the nature of a dispute. So many of these challenges are easier to address than we realize if they are clearly understood by all parties involved. If the root of the problem is so simple, why does it continue