March 2008 Issue


A Country Called Custom

Readers of this publication are well aware of the economic, social, political and environmental factors at play in shaping the character of the custom installation discipline in the American market—and of how changes both subtle and violent demand a delicate balance of well-considered pre-planning and rapid reaction, depending on what can and cannot be predicted. The best custom integrators plot their strategies based on personal experience, what they read about in the trades and over the Web, and what they hear during buying group and other peer networking opportunities at industry shows. What they may not know is that there is a

Borders Blurred: The State of the International CI Industry

The far-reaching implications of today’s global economy are undeniable. About 20 years ago I realized the world was rapidly changing as countries I had visited in my childhood, once so exotic and foreign, were becoming commonplace destinations. Fast forward 20 years and borders are blurred. Some stores in America are gladly excepting the Euro instead of the greenback, and thanks to the Internet, the entire planet is in my home. So what can we learn—and, more importantly, implement to help us in the U.S. as our own economy tightens—by what is going on globally in 2008? We chose the March issue of CustomRetailer

Brace Yourself!

It was Friday afternoon, tantalizingly close to quittin’ time, and only one job stood between a team of installers and their hard-earned weekend. They arrived at the last client’s home at 4 p.m., with a work order for a couple of mounts and a whole-house audio system, only to learn that the client had planned a dinner party and fully expected to have her home and her caché of new electronics in company condition by cocktail hour. Jim Wolford, vice president and general manager of Sanus Systems, was out with the team that day as part of “Project Install,” a program to get

Building Relationships

For the custom electronics and home automation suppliers at this year’s International Builders’ Show (IBS), held in mid-February, the soft housing market and the lag in recovery that is expected to occur well after the federal government’s economic stimulus package takes effect were all the more reason for them to have a presence on Orlando’s sprawling Orange County Convention Center floor. “This is our first IBS, and the reason we came,” explained Paradigm’s marketing manager, Mark Aling, “is to help set up home builder-installer contacts. Lots of home builders don’t know who to trust on the CI side. When you give that key over

CEA’s Free Trade Campaign

Free trade, currently one of the marquee policy issues of the Consumer Electronics Association, has been on Gary Shapiro’s mind for a long time. “I have an economics degree,” CEA’s president told CustomRetailer, noting that “99 percent of professionals” with that background recognize free trade as a “reality...that benefits people, not just a theory.”  CEA launched an aggressive free-trade campaign in late 2007, initially focusing on renewal of three free trade agreements (FTAs)—with South Korea, Panama and Colombia—that have stalled in Congress. The association is focusing on the ways in which free trade benefits American small businesses in particular. To underscore CEA’s commitment to


You turn another softly carpeted showfloor corner and spot a Crestron rep talking up a potential distributor. Before your appointment with Sony salespeople later in the day, you decide to sit down for a Sonance class on mounting in-wall speakers. For all you know, you’ve never left the Colorado Convention Center. Only, this isn’t CEDIA EXPO. It’s Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and the view outside the RAI Centre in Amsterdam would be difficult to confuse with downtown Denver. Geography isn’t the only difference (the smoke-filled hallways is another), however, to speak with people who attended the show, the similarities are striking. “There’s not a

CustomRetailer Introduces Customer Satisfaction Awards

I’ll let Maureen introduce you to the theme of this issue—think global and act local. For my part, there is nothing more local than the endorsement of a happy customer. But happiness is not just delight with the products themselves. It is also about the whole shopping experience, from initial research to the end result. What matters is the memory of the process, the good feeling you have every time you think about the experience as well as the daily delight with your purchase. Let’s face it—you really get to know the sales team, the integrator and the company’s personnel when you embark

Fighting the Good Fight

In his recent blockbuster, Sylvester Stallone brought the Rocky saga to a close. Many of us grew up watching the Philadelphia underdog as he overcame insurmountable odds to rise to the top of his profession. In the final installment of the series, Rocky makes a slight modification to the old adage “It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up that matters.” His take was significantly more assertive and had much more impact. He is describing life to his son in the appropriate boxing metaphor when he says, “It’s not how hard you can hit that matters,

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

Mastering the Ballpark Figure

Editor’s note: In August 2007, Ira kicked off his series of educational columns. This month, he focuses on Ballparking. Different than estimating, Ballparking proves your abilities and strengthens trust between you and the client. Part 8: Once you’ve developed a Performance List and you’re able to recite it back to your prospect, it’s time to start Ballparking. Ballparking is your way of immediately sharing pricing information. It’s your rough estimate for each constituent and discipline of the project. Ballparking is not the same as estimating. It is a way for you to test your prospect’s understanding early on in the process. Companion Selling treats

PARA At Its Finest

PARA’s Kerry Moyer spoke with CustomRetailer about the organization’s exciting new changes, member benefits and the many ways PARA is there to help you grow and sustain your business. How has PARA changed over the years? Since its inception, PARA has been a resource for the professional audio dealer. As the market expanded into home theater, PARA embraced video and changed its name to better describe the growth of these products among its membership. And, as home theater expanded into custom installation services for all types of audio and video applications, PARA dealers were quick to adapt while maintaining a showroom-based retail and custom

Quality Connections

The most unique characteristic of working with Honeywell is how much (and how many different ways) the company helps its dealers long before, during and after the sale. When integrators purchase a SKU from Honeywell, they don’t just get the specific part; they get a host of educational tools and testing protocols to make sure the application is executed successfully and that the end user is entirely satisfied with it. Take HDMI, for example. When installing HDMI connections using Honeywell products, dealers get help before the installation in the form of a testing tool that will tell the dealer if the cable is capable

Take a Deep Breath; CEDIA Is Passing Out Umbrellas

One day, Chicken Little was walking in the woods when — KERPLUNK — an acorn fell on her head. “The sky is falling!” said Chicken Little. ”I must go tell the king.” I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. A young chicken causes widespread panic when she mistakes a falling acorn for a piece of the sky. She decides to tell the king and other animals join her quest. At this point, there are many endings. In the “happy ending” version, the moral is not to be a “Chicken Little” but to have courage. And because our industry specializes in delivering happy endings for

The Flip Side

I got off the plane and felt like I’d landed on another planet. I picked up a paper and saw a headline that read: “Retail sales in December rise for the 7th consecutive month.” The news included stories about rising interest rates, job growth and increasing wages. I was excited to read a story about the country’s largest home goods retailer reporting a 13 percent increase in fourth quarter sales, largely from sales of flat screen TVs. The company reported plans to open 50 new stores in 2008. The report was not from Best Buy or Wal-Mart, but from Australia’s Harvey