Looking back, 2023 was a breakthrough year for the industry in a few key areas. Keep in mind that I don’t have hard data to back up these thoughts, just a whole lotta conversations with dealers, manufacturers, and marketers that, in the past few months, have shown progress in two areas that have been historically slow to move.
- Lighting Fixtures in CI: After years of hearing (and writing) about how lighting fixtures fit into a custom installation business, adoption finally seems to be taking root. And lighting fixture manufacturers are noticing, as they had a greatly increased presence at CEDIA Expo and are participating in Lightapalooza — the CI-industry-specific lighting event that is the brainchild of HTSA director of technology initiatives Tom Doherty. Lightapalooza had a growth spurt between the 2022 and 2023 versions, and 2024 is on track to be even bigger.
For this one, I do have some data to back it up, as we focused on it specifically as a product category in our recent “State of the Industry” report. In that report, Portal provided a chart showing lighting fixtures being spec’d in won proposals from January 2022 through August 2023, and it showed a category on the rise — and fairly steep on at that!
- Recognition From Builders and Other Trades. For years and years, integrators have been frustrated by getting in late on new construction projects — pretty much as an afterthought by all parties. That doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore, as recent conversations with dealers show that builders have realized how important it is to have the technology professionals in on the job at the outset.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In this issue’s luxury spec home feature, Al Reinhard, owner of AHT Global, who gets in early on most of his projects, comments, “Typically, we’re being brought in right at the beginning, but we’re trying to get in even earlier than that. We want to get in at the level when an architect is first engaged. We want to be part of the architectural team.”
These victories are great news, of course, but there are a few lingering problems that will hopefully find their breakthrough year in 2024. Here are the main ones that come to mind.
- Difficulty in Staffing: Finding the right employees continues to vex residential integration companies. However, the industry’s best minds do continue to work on the problem — including focused attention from CEDIA, buying groups, Paul Starkey, and others — so some relief should be forthcoming.
- Consumer Awareness: We need to take the processes that brought builders, architects, and other trades into our circle and aim them toward the general public. There is more and more need for our services — and plenty of business to be had — if only a greater number of consumers knew we existed.
I also believe that fixing #2 here would lead to progress in problem #1. This is an exciting and dynamic industry to be a part of and offers fantastic career options for those entering the workforce. They also just need to know we exist.
Related: Looking Backward to See Forward
Work continues to be underway for this problem, as well. In her column in this month’s issue, Katye McGregor Bennett advises on how to use the technology mania stirred up by CES to explain our position to potential clients. And our feature on VideoMojo reveals how dealers can create bespoke consumer-friendly videos that can be used to tell our story to a wider audience.
Let’s meet back here next year, same time, and see how we did!