When Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” back in 1859 for his book, A Tale of Two Cities, who knew that in 2022 those words could sum up the state of the custom installation industry and audio sales.
The industry remains hot with homeowners craving the latest home technologies, including networking, WFH (work from home), home theater, whole-house entertainment and lighting. Despite the growth and trendiness of the home electronics market, there are however, some major issues loom over the industry: Supply chain and chip shortages.
Our “audio guys” joined the latest CE Pro Podcast to talk about trends and challenges in the red-hot consumer audio business. Using the past year as a springboard, Paul Bochner, owner and president of Electronic Concepts in Rochelle Park, N.J., Alex Camara, CEO of AudioControl, and Steve Silberman, business development – audio at Savant, estimate that 2022 is shaping up to be another big year for the integration industry and audio sales.
“I don’t see any new trends; I just see a continuation of the trend. We were supposed to all be back in the office by now and that’s just not happening,” comments Silberman.
“People want their houses dialed in more than ever now so the systems are getting more refined; they are more elegant, easier to use, and when I look in the [Savant] Salon store in terms of product, it’s a healthy balance of cost-conscious, high performance for money. We are rocking with our high-end offerings like JBL Synthesis and now JBL Pro. So, I just see more audio finding its way into peoples’ homes and the backyard is huge.”
Camara points out the acceptance of high-performance systems isn’t limited to home theater and immersive audio. He says homeowners are now much more willing to spend on whole-house entertainment, including outdoor systems.
“I also think that the level of sophistication that people are willing to put in their homes now is way ahead of where it was a year ago. We’re seeing not just the price points going up for the dealer and the ability to sell higher-end projects, but also consumers willing to accept I think much more steering into a more sophisticated, more upper end, more higher res, more immersive solution, and not just in the theater, but also across the whole house,” asserts Camara.
“I think the days of, ‘you know I’m just settling for just a home theater’ upgrades are changing. We get dealers coming to us with not just seven pieces, but 16 pieces across the home and the outdoor area despite the fact that it’s winter right now. It’s just booming.”
Audio Sales Surging but Custom Installation Industry Facing Challenges
As audio sales continue to rise across the board for many integrators, there are some troubling factors that could slow the custom installation market.
The global supply chain and chip shortages continue to restrain not only the home electronics industry, but the entire global economy.
Silberman says the Federal Reserve Bank of New York assesses the global supply chain issue the world is currently experiencing just lower than peak periods back in December (2021) and there appears to be no immediate end in sight. He also points out that chip shortages and labor problems are also contributing to global economic problems.
Camara reiterates Silberman’s comments and notes it is imperative for manufacturers to manage their parts inventories in order to keep production moving. He says the AudioControl team works hard to maintain the company’s supply levels, but it is a lot of work for manufacturers.
Providing some dealer perspective on the global economic problems, Bochner recommends to manufacturers to maintain honest and open communications with their dealers to help dealers manage their inventory levels as best they can.
“The only thing I could really say is to the manufacturers – and I’m talking to two that get this [AudioControl and Savant], so this is really to you know anyone else that’s watching or listening – is you just need to be upfront with [dealers]. No matter how bad the scenario is you need to be honest, you know it will be 10 weeks; fine a customer might be okay with 10 weeks, but when 15 weeks comes and it’s another five weeks and we’re just hearing about it at that point that’s not good especially in the luxury space,” Bochner suggests. “Some customers if you tell them six months up front they’re going to be like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever, I’ve got to wait six months for this amazing product.’
“Honesty is the key here, and if you don’t want to burn the bridges with your integrators and you don’t want to burn the bridges with your customers because that’s where it’s going to end up if the honesty portion of the whole thing is going to fall right. The companies that we’re doing good with are the ones that are honest with us and realistic answers.”
To listen to the entire CE Pro Podcast conversation, in including the Audio Guys’ latest demo content recommendations, view or download the episode above. Find past episodes of the CE Pro Podcast by subscribing to the CE Pro YouTube channel or our Apple and Spotify podcast feeds.