SnapAV’s Distributor Acquisitions: The Amazon of Home Tech Channel?

SnapAV CEO John Heyman on acquiring regional distributors: ‘Literally’ no other place where dealers can get all the best home-technology products, plus stellar back-end support.

SnapAV’s Distributor Acquisitions: The Amazon of Home Tech Channel?

Giant home-tech supplier SnapAV is gobbling up regional distributors to offer local service and the industry's widest range of products.

SnapAV is getting to look a lot like Amazon, with tremendous logistics and back-end support for customers nationwide, industry-leading house brands in numerous categories, a growing online marketplace for third-party suppliers, and now … brick-and-mortar presence in three key markets through the acquisition of regional distributors Allnet (Midwest), Volutone (Southwest) and most recently MRI (Northeast).

As Amazon has done with its own retail shops, SnapAV plans to parlay its intellectual resources to benefit each brand location, while leaning on local branches to provide products and services suited to their particular client bases. And like Amazon Alexa and other Amazon services, SnapAV intends to tie partners to a single platform – OvrC – that streamlines operations, integration and customer support.  

The end game, according to CEO John Heyman, is a “truly omnichannel” offering that serves dealers and vendor partners like no other distributor can.

For starters, all of the regionals gain access to SnapAV’s house brands – many among the CE Pro 100 brand leaders – including speakers (Episode), networking (Araknis), surveillance (Luma) and power (WattBox). Meanwhile, the regionals continue to distribute and support their respective lines of audio, video, security, home automation, and other product categories from third-party vendors.

“We’ve had outstanding e-commerce capabilities since SnapAV was founded,” says CEO John Heyman in an interview with CE Pro.

“We’ve found that often customers need product before we can get it to them. That’s why local value-add distributors are so valuable. We’ve been on a march to build our capabilities nationwide to be more important to each of our 13,000 customers.”

“We’ve worked really hard to try to acquire the best brands in the space. We’ve been able to compete quite effectively locally, but we’ve had trouble competing with SnapAV.”

— Bob Dean, president, MRI

Despite its strong product line-up and dealer loyalty, however, SnapAV “couldn’t offer best-in-class products” from third-party vendors that the local distributors sell and support so adeptly, Heyman says.

He adds that SnapAV at this time has no plans to consolidate third-party brands across its regional locations.

MRI president Bob Dean says his company, formerly a member of the Powerhouse Alliance, prides itself on its strong line card of specialty brands from leading home-technology vendors.

“We’ve worked really hard to try to acquire the best brands in the space,” Dean tells CE Pro. “We’ve been able to compete quite effectively locally, but we’ve had trouble competing with SnapAV.”

Dean relates how one MRI driver expressed frustration upon delivering gear to customer jobsites and warehouses: “You wouldn’t believe how many places I go, open up the doors, and it's filled with SnapAV,” the employee reported.

Not only have the regionals been unable to compete against many SnapAV products, they haven’t been able to match wits with SnapAV’s e-commerce, research, transactional and other intellectual tools.

Read Next: SnapAV Acquires MRI, Adding 4 NE Locations to Growing Distribution Empire

“They haven’t had the scale to invest like we have,” Heyman says.

Dean concurs, noting that MRI has invested heavily in vendor relationships, local support, and branch renovations to improve merchandising, but dealers want it all.

“Every aspect of a small, independent company is expected to perform as a national does,” he says, noting that SnapAV provides access to information, data mining, a “brain trust” and “getting better value and better services to customers, making sure the team is best positioned for the future.”

Third-Party Vendors OK With SnapAV Acquisitions

SnapAV competes (often fiercely) with many of the independent vendors carried by the regional distributors. How do those vendors feel about the potential encroachment by the new parent company?

So far, the communications with MRI vendors have been “very, very positive,” Dean says, adding that Allnet and Volutone “paved the way” for potentially tricky conversations.

It was just one year ago that SnapAV acquired its first distributor, Allnet. Company founder Wally Whinna said at the time that about 2% of vendors decided to part ways with the distributor following the acquisition.

Today, however, those vendors are “looking to come back in,” he says. “They recognize the service we can provide. Dealers want selection. SnapAV doesn’t cover all the categories.”

Related: SnapAV Acquires Allnet, Major Midwest Distributor for Home-Tech Pros

The more recent acquisitions of Volutone and MRI have strengthened Allnet’s position with its third-party vendors, according to Whinna: “They know something special is  happening here, and they want to participate.”

“The third-party vendors are excited to get involved at a deeper level.”

— Allnet founder Wally Whinna
on SnapAV OvrC platform

He says vendors are particularly interested in SnapAV’s OvrC ecosystem – the growing family of products that can be integrated and remotely monitored by home-technology integrators through the OvrC cloud-based platform.

“OvrC is a great opportunity to help them [dealers] manage all of their jobs, plus provide better service to clients,” Whinna says. “It’s the glue that keeps all our connected products together. The third-party vendors are excited to get involved at a deeper level.”

Currently, OvrC works with a handful of third-party products including select devices from Atlona, Lutron, URC and Control4.

Between SnapAV’s house brands and affiliate brands, along with the regional distributors’ third-party vendors, “literally, if you’re a customer, there’s only one place you can go to get the best products in the industry,” Heyman says.

Ultimately, SnapAV’s intent is to have a “truly omnichannel offering,” he says, where all products can be purchased at any location or Website, and easily returned and supported wherever it’s most convenient to the dealer.

The first step now is building a local footprint nationwide, Heyman says. Three regions down, several more to go.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

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




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