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One-Stop Suppliers

Like most CEOs of AV systems integration firms, John Miceli is always scanning the horizon for new products that can help him design and deliver better client project solutions. But if you're a product manufacturer trying to catch his eye with a new offering ? especially one that's venturing beyond your established expertise ? don't expect to get very far with him on your good name alone. ?Just because a manufacturer makes a great product or two doesn't mean we're going to love everything they do,? says Miceli, who runs Orlando, FL-based Technomedia Solutions. ?I commend companies that have tried to move beyond their niche, but product expansions have to be executed correctly, and products have to be well thought out ? not just conceived in a race to compete. Three-quarters of their vision can't be on competitors and one-quarter on themselves.? Miceli's mindset is one that a growing number of AV gear manufacturers might do well to contemplate. As more manufacturers ? from companies like Harman Pro to Loud T

“HiQnet will give users more control and flexibility when it comes to using Harman gear, but at the same time it doesn't rule out the use of gear from other suppliers,” Terry says.

Looking ahead, Terry says Harman is focused on further expanding the range of products to include lower price-point gear and more application software. At the same time, there will be a more intense drive to sell more gear to integrators through the Harman network. “We'll be looking to take more orders for complete Harman solutions,” he says.

While Harman's multi-brand strategy is unique, it's certainly not the only way to achieve “one-stop” supplier stature.

Take Extron Electronics, for example. The 20-year-old Anaheim, CA-based company has stepped up the pace of bringing more video control-related products to market under its own name. From video interfaces and switchers, Extron has moved into designing, manufacturing, and marketing distribution amplifiers, scalers, scan converters, signal processors, and, most recently, loudspeakers.

Extron's vice president of marketing, Lee Dodson, says building up the line of presentation support gear — so-called “glue” products — addresses current market needs.

“By offering complete systems, we're able to control the integrity of the design, lower the manufacturing cost, and pass along savings,” he says. “For customers, the one-stop shop trend can be a huge advantage: Components of the system may be combined and tailored for a lower-cost approach. And systems don't need to be redesigned as often to chase separate manufacturer model changes.”

But others in the channel say the trend toward the “one-stop” model may have some serious consequences for distributors, end-users, and even manufacturers.

Mike Oltz, president of John B. Anthony Co./Metro Reps, a Fairfield, NJ-based independent pro audio rep firm, says he fears efforts by companies like Harman Pro to capture more of the market for a broader range of gear may not only upset long-established channel relationships, but also possibly alienate customers. He worries about what a proliferation of manufacturer strategies similar to Harman Pro's will mean for manufacturer representatives, dealers, integrators, and end-users. The result, he says, could be fewer choices for customers — a risky move in a world where customers want more, not fewer options.

“I question whether all of this consolidation on the part of manufacturers is beneficial,” he says. “I think a lot of consultants/integrators/contractors who do design-build work may feel uncomfortable choosing products for their projects from a single company. Many of the products may not be the right choice, but they may feel pressured to use them.”

Oltz has acutely felt the impact of manufacturer moves to exert more influence over purchasing decisions. He recently lost New York metro area representation of AKG Acoustics microphones and related gear, ending a 45-year relationship with the brand, which is part of the Harman Pro family. Now, distribution of that brand will be handled by a “captive” rep focused chiefly on getting Harman Pro's brands into the hands of resellers as part of a Harman-centric package. Oltz termed AKG's decision a minor setback, but hardly unexpected, given Harman Pro's announced intent in January 2005 to finish consolidating global marketing and sales of its brands.

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