Top 5 Home Tech Opportunities for 2013
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Motorized Shades: Lower Prices, Greater Varieties, Energy Savings Could Spur Sales
By Julie Jacobson
During the most recent CE Pro 100 Summit in November 2012 dealers discussed in roundtables the next great opportunities for their businesses. One integrator had only two words to say: motorized shades.
Motorized shades are nothing new, but many in the CE pro channel are only just embracing the category, while others are placing an increased focus on it. That’s because new vendors, new technologies, retrofit solutions, energy savings and lower product costs have opened new doors.
One of the biggest new opportunities of 2012 came from Lutron, which introduced its lowest-cost shading product ever, in a category that typically commands high prices. The company’s Sivoia QS Wireless Cellular battery-powered shades start at just $299 for a 3- by 5-foot window.
“Motorized shades are seeing a slight resurgence with us because of Lutron’s lower-priced entries into the market, coupled with the Ra 2 connectivity,” says James Goodrich of Honolulu-based Cine Life, referring to Lutron’s RadioRa2 home control system. “They’re simple to install and simple to operate, at a reasonable price point.”
Competitor Somfy is seeing a noticeable increase in business among traditional window-covering professionals, thanks to its new Tahoma home automation system. These dealers, in turn, are entering our channel as integrators of lighting, thermostats, motorized shades and other home technologies.
CEDIA Expo 2012 saw a record number of exhibitors in the motorized shading category including Hunter Douglas/Electronic Solutions Inc. (ESI), Mecho-Shade and QMotion. The biggest surprise, however, was Crestron Electronics, which debuted its first line of motorized shades.
“Crestron has a great new solution that is energizing dealers, designers, homeowners, etc.,” says Jeff Cherun of Teatro Custom Installation, serving the Los Angeles area. “It is nice to have a one-stop solution, and now Crestron offers that.”
Driven by improved technology and the potential to contribute to energy savings, motorized shades are surging in consumer popularity.
Acquiring a Motorized Shading Business
Engineered Environments, a leading high-end integration firm based in Alameda, Calif., is so bullish on motorized shades that it acquired a company in the space. Principal Randy Stearns explains:
Have you been reluctant to sell motorized shades in the past?
Engineered Environments has installed motorized window treatments for years, but our success rate has been less than stellar, especially when the application moved beyond a basic roller shade with conventional pockets. We struggled with dual and oversize shades, irregular size pockets, curve tracks and more. As an industry leader, Engineered Environments is expected and accustomed to being the best. We simply weren’t when it came to shades. So, in June 2011, I acquired the best motorized window treatment specialty firm in the Bay Area, Advanced Shading, and the business has taken off.
What prompted you to push this category more?
Motorized window treatments is an industry sector that is growing and gross margins remain strong.
What has changed in the marketplace that makes motorized shades more appealing to integrators?
The product offering continues to improve with quieter motors, wireless options, app-based control, and expanded fabric selection.
Why is it becoming a more compelling product for consumers?
Some seek the energy-saving benefits derived from preventing solar gain in the summer and creating solar gain in the winter through the automated opening/closing of sun shades based on sunlight and indoor/outdoor temperature differentials.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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