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Industry Embracing Commercial, Retrofit Markets

Once "fat and happy" on the new-construction gravy train, CE pros are now feeding off the commercial and retrofit markets.

Tom LeBlanc · January 8, 2010
I even attended InfoComm, the commercial electronics installation market’s major trade show. Naturally, I spoke to many of the residential manufacturers that also have commercial lines.

Company after company told me they’re seeing their traditionally residential dealers branch into commercial — and that they’re encouraging them to do so. More than one video manufacturer grabbed me on the arm and told me to make CE pros understand that digital signage is their next big opportunity.

The perhaps less dramatic shift is toward retrofit. Most CE pros always did some retrofit work, even though the arduous work (relative to new-construction) probably wasn’t pursued all that aggressively. According to CEDIA, CE pros have had a change of heart and are pretty revved up about retrofits. It expects integrators to have earned 62 percent of their 2009 revenues from projects in existing homes. Compare that to 55 percent in 2008 and consider that the percentage of revenue generated in existing homes has been climbing steadily since 2006, when it accounted for less than 50 percent.

So it sounds like CE pros have a plan. Still, I like Waltham, Mass.-based Maverick Integration’s method of piling up retrofit projects. Owner Dennis Jaques keeps an Excel document with all of his existing clients’ names. It includes a tab with notes on seemingly innocuous things discussed with the client during consultation.

Maybe they talked about how they prefer Macs over PCs. Maybe their system includes a Kaleidescape system and also a Blu-ray player. Jaques strategically calls these folks to check on their system and also plants a seed: “Have you heard about Apple TV?” or “Did you know Kaleidescape is coming out with a Blu-ray-friendly system?”

Laugh all you want at the simplicity of it, but Jaques says he has gotten countless add-on projects as a result — some of which are worth $10,000.

These are the types of tidbits I hope to hear from CE pros during 2010. The way I figure it, more guys telling me their plans for attacking the retrofit and commercial markets in 2010 equates to more companies staying in business in 2011.

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  About the Author

Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at tom.leblanc@emeraldexpo.com

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