PARA Conference Focused on Promoting Specialty A/V

May's PARA Management Conference marked the one-year anniversary of the Professional Audio-Video Retailers Association merger with the Consumer Electronics Association.
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May's PARA Management Conference marked the one-year anniversary of the Professional Audio-Video Retailers Association merger with the Consumer Electronics Association.

Arlington, VA--The 2005 PARA Management Conference, which was held May 11-15 in Coronado, California, focused on growing the specialty A/V retail channel, and marked the one-year anniversary of the Professional Audio-Video Retailers Association (PARA) merger with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

With a full slate of keynotes and educational sessions that examined the business issues that challenge specialty dealers as well as multiple networking opportunities and one-on-one dealer/manufacturer meetings, the CEA-produced conference also provided a forum for open discussions.

The conference kicked off on Wednesday, May 11, with a PARA Division board meeting and a new member orientation. Thursday morning opened with welcome remarks from CEAs senior director of member relations Charles Eaton, CEAs PARA Division chair and Flanners Audio & Video president, John Flanner, and CEAs PARA Division vice chair and Myer Emco president, Gary Yacoubian.

Keynoter Dr. Richard DAveni, professor, Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, in an address asked attendees: How will you win in a disruptive environment when current business models disappear? He said the core principle of a sustainable competitive advantage, once the Holy Grail of business, is no longer a viable reality. The session was designed to alert attendees to shake up their business strategy.

DAveni identified three trends that will impact A/V businesses: falling entry barriers, escalating competition, and aggressive disruption from innovative companies or technologies.

Video installation is a form of crack that you easily could get addicted to, he cautioned. What happens when it becomes mass market? Right now you can charge a premium for expertise--but with plug-and-play, technology replaces the value-add of expertise.

Microsofts director of marketing for the Windows Consumer Group, Bill Mannion, spoke about digital entertainment and Microsofts vision of its digital media center powering the hub of the digital home. He explained that with the proliferation of stand-alone products, customers are seeking solutions to connect the devices together and enable the distribution of content anywhere.

I see unprecedented opportunity to provide solutions for your customers, Mannion said.

The final morning session, Show me the Money! led by moderator Noah Herschman looked at how retailers can profit from the upward rise in consumers desire for the connected home.

Crestron Electronics national sales manager, Bill Schafer, said, You cant make money when a product will be a commodity within six months. The reality is the retail space is tough because the Wal-Mart factor has changed the world.

The group addressed competition from other big box retailers, in particular, Best Buys Geek Squad that began a year ago and today numbers 7,000 installers. The point is to get the Trojan horse in to customers living rooms and then sell them razor blades. We need to create a beach head that is difficult for Best Buy to attack. Its important to allow an affordable entry point so you can service all of your customers, said Tweeters Dave Tovissi.

The well-attended afternoon breakout sessions covered a diverse array of industry topics including: inventory management; what women want; a CEA market research presentation on understanding why consumers shop at specialty stores; how to create a high performance sales team; eBay solutions for retailers; and PR101 on leveraging free media. The day concluded with a cocktail reception and a clambake with a view of the sunset over the Pacific.

CEAs market research presentation on Thursday afternoon, "Understanding Why Consumers Shop at Specialty, High-End Electronics Stores," explored consumers' perceptions of specialty, high-end electronics retailers and identified target markets for those stores. The research covered how to focus on the right market segments, as well as how to target your market with the appropriate communications vehicles.

Fridays programming began with a keynote from Intels Director of Marketing for the Digital Home Group Bill Leszinske who spoke about an important shift that has occurred--consumers want to access their digital content at any time, anywhere, including moving content around the digital home.

The final day of the conference focused on the specialty retail sales associate and included presentations of new CEA market research, a dealer panel discussion and keynote presented by Jackie Freiberg, an expert in organizational structure and success.

The CEA study, Motivating Specialty Retail Sales Associates," was conducted in order to learn what sales associates enjoy most about their jobs, as well as things they would like to change. The research was based on personal interviews that yielded information on motivating factors, challenges faced and retention issues.

The full detailed analysis for both studies presented at the PARA conference is available on-line at

The conference concluded with a dinner honoring the winners of the 2005 Demmy Awards. The Demmy Awards recognize recordings that provide exceptional material for audio demonstration, a key issue in the specialty audio/video community. The 2005 Demmy winners are:

Best CD Track:
Narrow DaylightDiana Krall, The Girl in the Other Room (Verve)
Best Hi-Resolution 2-Channel Track:
Piano Trio in G-Minor: Scherzo; Intermezzo: Moderato con AllegroThe Florestan Trio, French Piano Trios (Hyperion)

Best Hi-Resolution Multi-Channel Track:
MosaicLaurence Juber, Guitar Noir (AIX)

Best Segment of a DVD as a Movie:
Chapter 14: The Gunfight BeginsProduction Sound: Geln Gauthier/Music: Michael Kamen, Open Range (Buena Vista Home Video)

Best Segment of a DVD as a Music Video or Concert:
Narrow DaylightDiana Krall, Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival (Universal Home Video)

The 2006 PARA Management Conference will be held May 3-7, in Hilton Head, South Carolina.