Search CE Pro






Print  |  Email  |  Comments (3)  |  Share  |  News  |  Follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or RSS

Spotlight on Home Automation
More Info

Can RadioShack & Other Retailers Sell Home Automation?

Home control is still a "push" sell and CE pros are best positioned to push it into the mainstream


When I suggested in my January Industry Insider that home automation has never succeeded at retail, I received a harshly worded response from 35-year industry veteran Dave Rye.

The senior VP of X10 wrote, “Quite frankly Julie you haven't a clue what you're talking about.”

He went on to recount the impressive history of X10 – a pioneer in powerline-based control – and concludes, “X10 doesn't just ‘try’ sell to the masses, we do it, and do it very successfully.”

I concede that X10 does a wonderful job of selling gadgets and covert cameras, but not home automation to the masses. I don’t mean masses of gadget freaks, but masses of ordinary people. And by home automation, I mean integrated lighting and thermostats and maybe a macro or two.

Rye rattles off a litany of X10 private-labeled solutions for the likes of IBM, RCA, RadioShack and Stanley -- all of which were very capable solutions back then, but none of which succeeded. True, as he says, they were all “sold at retail, to the masses.”

Sold, perhaps, but not purchased.

We see the same phenomenon today, despite boasts from numerous home-control vendors that their products have been picked up by RadioShack, Lowes, Best Buy and other mass marketers. Picked up by retailers, but are they being picked up by consumers?

On a recent trip to my local Shack -- the corner store formerly known as RadioShack -- I found a very brisk cell phone kiosk. But not a single person gazed at the modest array of X10-like gadgets.

Furthermore, dust had settled on the two Schlage Link boxes in the store. Although the boxes -- containing a Z-Wave-enabled door lock, wireless Internet gateway, and Z-Wave lamp module -- sat on prime shelves, they attracted little interest from passersby.

I asked the store associate (a long-time employee): Have you sold many of the Schlages?

He looked at me confused.

When I pointed to the boxes, he said, "Oh those. No, people are turned off by the price. They're like $300."

And then I asked how customers felt about the $12.99 monthly service fee for remote access.

Again, that confused look: "What?!"

And that's probably the same dialog I would have with the folks at Lowe's, Best Buy or other popular stores that sell home automation.

RadioShack stock is up about 80% over the past year, and the company enjoyed a 26-percent increase in earnings in the fourth quarter. But it was all about cell phones. Phones are easy to sell. Consumers know what they are. RadioShack employees know what they are. Who has the bandwidth to learn about and sell home automation?

Not to pick on Schlage. The same can be said of Xanboo, iControl and countless other home-control vendors that have practically abandoned the retail channel. Furthermore, there has not been a single successful home-control initiative involving utilities, telcos, cable and other service providers, despite numerous efforts.

Home automation still remains a very assisted sale. Except for the geeks, the real mass market doesn’t understand the stuff, and doesn’t want to install it.

So there remains a tremendous opportunity for integrators, even if you’re installing DIY-friendly products like Schlage.

Now, if we can only convince such vendors to court the CE pro channel.




Spotlight on Home Automation
More Info

Subscribe to the CE Pro Newsletter

Article Topics

Blogs · Home Automation and Control · Spotlight · Home Automation · Industry Insider · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

3 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Eyal Kattan  on  04/19  at  07:15 PM

There is a paradox in selling home automation at stores like BestBuy, Home Depot and alike.

IMHO, the audience that buy TV’s and Audio equipment from these stores, usually looks bot a bargain which is cntradictory by nature to home automation which cost way above $300 for a decent system.

It requires great deal of education to the customer and as we all know, the personel at these stores is not that “knowledgable” even on the basic equipment (Re: the confused guy at the Shack wink )
And I’m not even getting into design, installation, training and maintenance.

Another example was when BestBuy failed to sell home automation in a box for $15K.

I can’t really see home automation becoming a main stream like a TV or DVD player. But I might be near sighted as I’m getting older grin

Posted by Eyal Kattan  on  04/19  at  07:16 PM

grrr…. I wish there was a way to edit typos….

2nd line of my post should say: “...usually looks for a bargain..”

Posted by mike isaacs  on  04/27  at  11:43 AM

Jules - you are still the hottest technical mind this industry has ever known…well, maybe the second hottest mind, well, then again…. wink

When your neighbor or family member can walk over to your touchscreen controller and make something happen on their own, then HA has a chance to be mainstream…thats why I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel for HA in retail and its call the Ipad

Page 1 of 1 comment pages
Post a comment
Name:
Email:
Choose smileys | View comment guidelines
Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Sponsored Links

  About Us Customer Service Privacy Policy Contact Us Advertise With Us Dealer Services Subscribe Reprints ©2013 CE Pro
  EH Network: Electronic House CE Ideas Store Commercial Integrator ChannelPro ProSoundWeb Church Production Worship Facilities Electronic House Expo Worship Facilities Expo