3 Product Categories Poised for Comebacks
Will profitable products like Beam’s new Alliance central vacuum system give integrators an edge with builders as the housing market picks back up?
Several product categories that are extremely dependent on new construction have certainly had a tough time migrating to the existing home market, namely central vacuum, structured wiring and multiroom audio.
What are the prospects for these three as the market rebounds?
Structured Wiring: During the housing boom, some integrators were installing tens of thousands of structured wiring enclosures. But even with the market on the rise, has new wireless technology made this category obsolete? Not really. A home will still need a centralized networking hub that combines hardwiring and wireless, but try convincing a builder of that!
Multiroom Audio: The category of distributed audio was on a roll when housing was booming, then the bottom dropped out. According to CEA data, sales of multiroom audio systems to dealers were $180 million back in 2008 then dropped by 22 percent in one year to $139 million in 2009. Today, the category is at $292 million, but that growth is mainly due to the development of wireless audio, not hardwired solutions.
Strong solutions from NuVo, Proficient, SpeakerCraft, Russound, Eos, Wasp Audio, Monster, Navvo/Voco, Crestron, Legrand, Soundcast, Channel Vision, Lightspeakers, Sony, DVDO, Casatunes, Dynaudio and the big kahuna, Sonos, that did not exist before the housing collapse are now the market. Heck, there’s now an entire organization - the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA) - dedicated to expanding the technology
But while these wireless audio products were developed to target the existing home market, they are also perfectly suitable for new construction. So the conclusion is that architectural in-ceiling speaker sales will jump as more new homes are built, but you won’t necessarily be running more speaker wire.
Central Vacuum: Much more than the other two categories, central vacuum is almost 100 percent linked to new construction. It is labor intensive and messy to retrofit an existing home with a central vac system, but easy as pie while the walls are open during new construction. As evidence, look at the CE Pro 100 Brand Analysis for the past three years. In 2012, only 36 percent of companies installed central vac. That’s compared to 45 percent in 2010 and over 50 percent in 2007. Electrolux/Beam has garnered the lion’s share of the market with nearly half the integrators carrying it.
One New England integrator recently told me that the housing crisis gave him an easy excuse to drop central vacuum, even though it was quite profitable. He has moved his company to the ultra-high-end of the market and determined that installing central vacuum systems gave the impression to architects and designers that his technicians were “less skilled laborers.”