One of the challenges with the home technology integration industry is finding a consistent business model for success. The trouble is that each market is a little different, with different demographics and competition, so no single strategy works for every company. I observed this phenomenon last month at HTSA’s Fall Conference in Chicago, when back-to-back conversations with dealer members of the buying group yielded stories of contrasting go-to-market strategies.
Both David Young, owner of The Sound Room in the suburbs of St. Louis, and Joe Barrett, owner of Barrett’s Technology Solutions in suburban Chicago, are veteran business owners and long-time members of HTSA. They’re thoughtful and deliberate, and have been industry friends for many years. Yet they are going in opposite directions when it comes to recent major investments in new facilities.
Young, for example, has doubled down on AV retail by purchasing his first building, having found a prime location in a high-end commercial district of St. Louis for his showroom and event center. So far, he has spent $3 million tricking out the building with multiple listening rooms and home theaters (including one 22-seater with a stage), an automated house, and an outdoor AV area. The Sound Room also will be open every Sunday for the first time, to better appeal to local shoppers who will see popular brands like Sonos and Bose displayed prominently near the entrance, along with headphones and AV furniture vignettes (with pricing clearly marked). The plan, Young said, is to lesson the intimidation factor for shoppers and to encourage impulse purchases. Young said that he’s hoping to fill a void in his market.
“Too many companies are going away from the demo,” Young told me. “I don’t believe that retail is dead. People still value human interaction. They want someone they can call when they have challenges or want an upgrade.”
Barrett, on the other hand, will be eliminating weekend hours at his new 12,000-square-foot showroom and design center. His plan is use his design center to elevate the conversation with trade partners that he has met through board-or committee-level participation with the AIA, ASID, and Chicago’s PowerHouse SMART luxury trades networking and education community. It’s those partnerships with the architects, interior designers, realtors, and builders that now drive most of his company’s business.
“I tell my guys that if they think they can sit on their thumbs and wait for clients to walk in the front door, then they’re working at the wrong place,” Barrett said. “That’s a big change for a company that used to have multiple retail locations.”
Despite their differences, both owners seem to understand the value of using their new facilities in innovative ways, whether by educating clients and trade partners, or by hosting upscale events to build relationships. And, even though Young and Barrett seemed to have flipped each other’s business scripts, they clearly know what makes sense in their specific markets and are fully invested in making their businesses sustainable for the future.