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CES: products take a back seat to people
CES: products take a back seat to people
Consumer electronics retailers want to make the right connections with vendors during the 1995 International Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV. Buyers will be searching for the vendors with the right products for the next year. The new digital satellite TV systems were hot sellers in 1994, and buyers want to talk to vendors about new products in the category. The home theater concept is still expected to be popular, as the integration of TV and audio becomes more common.
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LAS VEGAS--Home theater, DSS, multimedia and audio/video accessories are some of the critical things on the minds of the nation's electronics retailers as they prepare to head for the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show this Friday. But it won't be the merchandise so much as the people who sell it who will get the once-over at the show.
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Raymond Navarrete, vice president of strategic merchandise planning for Edison, N.J.-based Tops Appliance City, said he looks forward to sitting down at CES with those vendors with which Tops has partnered over the past year. "We will be reviewing our successes, but more importantly, planning our direction for 1995," he said.
As for areas of specific interest, Navarrete said he will be watching emerging categories at the show such as the RCA Digital Satellite System, computers, with as multimedia a particular focus, and home theater, with a careful look at both the video and audio aspects.
"There are plenty of people out there not looking to put in a fullblown home theater system," he observed. "They may already have a TV they like, and they may just want to add some speakers. Audio is in a growth mode again because of this; it was the missing component in video."
Jim Kelloff, vice president of electronics for Eugene, Ore.-based Smith's Home Furnishings, said home theater will be his number-one focus at CES. "I want to see who's going to take the video/audio aspect of the home theater to the next level," he commented. "I want to see how DSS is going to affect what the manufacturers are going to do with their TVs and who's going to try to go after that business."
Noting consumers are becoming more aware of the integration of TV and home audio, Kelloff added Smith's, which also sells furniture, "wants to talk to the consumer about home theater, and the integration of video and audio, as much as possible."
CES, to Kelloff, is an opportunity to see some vendors and to get an overview of what's out there. "Am I doing business with the right people?" he quipped. "Are there other people I should be looking at?"
Dick Wallace, vice president of merchandising for Miami, Fla.-based BrandsMart/USA, said he will be taking his entire team of buyers to CES this year in an effort to more effectively canvass all the new products.
"We'll be looking for anything out there that we're not currently into, anything that's an opportunity for us to make money," he noted.
One area Wallace said he plans to personally investigate is new satellite dish offerings. "The RCA DSS system that shipped this past year has done exceptionally well for us," he said. "It's a really explosive area of growth so I'm interested in everything Sony and the rest of the competitorsa are going to be introducting."
He said he also is interested in other video-related accesories such as the StarSight interactive programming guide and voice-activated remotes--"anything that makes life easier." This figures to be his plan when it comes to audio accessories as well. "We want to develop a better niche item program so we'll be checking out the latest in minisystems and boom-boxes," Wallace added.
John LaRegina, TV/video buyer for Hauppauge-based P.C. Richard & Son Inc., said he will be interested in talking to key suppliers to see where their home theater efforts will be concentrated in 1995. "For instance, I've seen that new 80-inch ProScan projection TV (on display off-site during CES) and those are the kind of things I am looking for," he noted.
He said he also will look to see what the next step in the integration of TV and home audio will be in order to create a better and more accessible home theater experience for consumers. "The things that were successful for us in 1994 were large screen TV, home theater presentations, DSS--all those areas that really combine themselves into a home theater effort. We want to keep that alive because that business has been very good to us."
Eddie Maloney, president of Jackson, Miss.-based Cowboy Maloney's Electric City, said his attention will be focused on best cheap car speakers, home office, personal electronics and a few other categories during CES. "We're now selling products we either just dabbled in or weren't in at all, in the past," he noted.
"We were neophytes in those areas I mentioned; five years ago we were just an appliance and TV dealer," Maloney said. "We were able to latch onto a couple of good home and car audio lines and home office and PC lines a few years ago; now we need to expand those."
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Maloney went on to say he needs to offer the same broad selection in the new areas that he has long offered in appliances and TVs. This will become increasingly important as new regional and national players start invading his turf, he added.
Dania, Fla.-based Sound Advice plans to send at least four or five buyers to scout out everything there is to see at CES, according to merchandising vice president Tom Freeman.
"These buyers will do nothing but cover the floor, looking at what's out there," he stressed. "Specifically, they'll be looking for anything that can add excitement to our selling floor, even on a shortterm basis."
Speakers, unique accessory items and high-end, fringe video items are tops on Freeman's list with an eye to expanding his operation's video offerings. "'We'll be looking at editing devices, for instance," he said.
Playing a bit of the devil's advocate, Jim Tweten, president of Seattle-based Magnolia Hi- Fi, said his buyers will not be looking for any new vendors or categories at CES.
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"We're there to meet with our current vendors, to solidify our relationships, to work out our programming and plans for '95, and to communicate what we're going to do," he explained. "We're not there to look at new categories. We've got enough under our belt to deal with. We got into multimedia last fall and we've pretty much expanded our mix in television and projection and minishelf systems."

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