Q&A: Séura Co-founder Gretchen Gilbertson

Gretchen Gilbertson, co-founder of Seura, says the outdoor A/V market offers a huge opportunity for installers to grow their revenues.

Q&A: Séura Co-founder Gretchen Gilbertson
Seura co-founder Gretchen Gilbertson says Seura protects the interests of its dealers through limited distribution policies and communication via its manufacturers representatives.
Robert Archer · April 20, 2012

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

For Gretchen Gilbertson, co-founder of Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Séura, Lombardi’s words set a standard for Séura’s commitment to product quality and dealer service.

Gilbertson talks with CE Pro about Séura’s new Storm outdoor TV series and the opportunities the outdoor A/V market will offer CE pros in 2012. 

Can you place a number on the growth of the outdoor A/V category?
The good news is there is definitely potential. This was a hot topic at a recent HTSA [Home Technology Specialists of America] event where it was revealed that about one third or $33.6 billion of remodeling budgets were spent on outdoor spaces in 2011. That number is expected to grow in 2012 with introductions of new lifestyle audio-video solutions.

With the average size of homes shrinking, more people are choosing to entertain at home, and the demand for outdoor living features is continuing to grow. Outdoor spaces can also be cheaper to build than areas inside the home. Homeowners can easily expand and update their home’s living space with updated outdoor areas at a much lower cost per square foot than an indoor remodel. As the trend of bringing the indoors outside continues, no other market trend is changing experiences at home more than outdoor features.

Can CE pros use the same type of sales methods to sell outdoor A/V as they do with traditional home theater?
Selling outdoor products is unquestionably different than traditional home theaters. We encourage our dealers to partner with other professionals such as landscape architects. Design and landscape professionals are already working on outdoor kitchens, bars, water features, and lighting. Bringing together all these services, including A/V, offers homeowners an added benefit because each professional brings his or her own expertise to the table. Collaboration can be a win-win scenario for the homeowner, design professional, and the integrator while reducing the likelihood that mistakes will occur during the project.

As a manufacturer, we are dedicating resources into creating tools and training for our dealers to take this next step. Other companies are doing the same. Dealers now have access to targeted collateral for the architecture and design industries, focused presentations, demo programs, and marketing for regional trade shows and events. These tools are making it easier for dealers to evolve and reach out to industry partners.

Is there a proper way to evaluate the performance of an outdoor HDTV?
There are a number of key differences in performance and functionality that distinguish outdoor televisions from conventional products. While the outdoor TV is not an original concept, Séura’s Storm offers features and performance standards that are completely new and stand up to the unique challenges posed by outdoor applications.

Perhaps the most important criterion in evaluating picture quality is screen brightness. A typical indoor TV has an approximate brightness of 300 nits [cd/m2]. While this is an appropriate brightness for indoor applications, sunlight and other high brightness environments will wash out the picture, completely hindering its performance. Storm’s display boasts 700 nits, resulting in a bright TV picture ideal for situations with abundant ambient light. We also employ our LuminOptics technology that combines high brightness screens with specialized anti-reflective safety glass to refract ambient light.

Climate and moisture control is another factor to consider when evaluating outdoor televisions. Outdoor TVs have built-in heating and cooling functions to combat outdoor elements and regulate the internal environment to keep components operating perfectly.

How does Séura go about testing the weatherproof capabilities of its products?
Our products undergo rigorous testing processes both in our research lab and outdoors. Being in Wisconsin, our climate offers a wide range of elements in which we can organically test our products. We also have controlled heating and cooling chambers to test our products in recreated extreme temperatures and weather conditions.

Other assessments include water spray tests and other trials to measure outdoor endurance. These controlled tests provide accurate measurements of the product’s flexibility and can effectively ensure Storm will function in any given condition.

  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]

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