On the day I began my holiday vacation last month I attended the grand opening of a local rep/distributor located only 10 minutes from my house in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, IN. The visit gave me a rare chance at a local story and provided me with a surprise Christmas present in the form of one of the distributor’s unique product lines.
Will call sales are about 40 percent of Allnet's business
The facility is the third location for Allnet Distributing, which had previously served the state from its Elk Grove Village, IL, hub (the other branch is in Troy, MI). I was curious to learn more about it for several reasons, not the least of which was that I would be meeting with industry veteran Wally Whinna, the former VP of sales and marketing for AVAD, who now serves as general manager of Allnet and a board member of the Catalyst AV Distribution Network. Little did I know that my next door neighbor’s dad, Tandem Marketing’s Buddy Wibbeler, would also greet me at the location, for he had been Allnet’s rep in the territory prior to the new facility being built.
Allnet's Carmel branch is a full-service 6,000-square-foot facility.
The Carmel branch is a full-service, 6,000-square-foot facility comprised of a warehouse, training room, and active display area that features many preeminent brands, including Bose, Lutron, Luxul, Nest, Sony 4K, URC Total Control, and Yamaha. The branch will also stock all Catalyst AV network lines, which are APC, Atlona, Catalyst Wire & Cable, Definitive Technology, EnGenius, IC Realtime, Nest, Rapid Racks and Mounts, Ring, Russound, TiVo, Vanco, and Vivitek.
According to Whinna, Allnet is focused on bringing its award-winning training seminars to Indy-based integrators. Beginning January and February, the company is hosting aggressive trainings on Luxul (advanced networking), Lutron (shade and lighting certification), and URC (Total Control).
The team at Allnet's Carmel branch is led by Wally Whinna (right).
“We are happy to open a branch in this market so our customers can take advantage of our local seminars, technical service, and have access to will call,” Whinna said. “These are all key components that help integrators advance in today’s fast-paced environment.”
Whinna told me that Allnet is located in the same office complex that housed AVAD’s Indy facility five years ago. That was before Ingram Micro purchased AVAD and made a strategic decision to shutter several of its branch locations.
“I hadn’t been to Carmel in 10 years and was just blown away when I came back. It was always a good upscale community and nice, but just that downtown business area and housing and business is up,” Whinna said, also noting the abundance of top-tier integration firms in a market known for its high-net-worth clientele.
In explaining Allnet’s move from a single rep in the territory (my neighbor’s dad) to one with a “store front” so to speak, the company was now able to profit from will-call traffic, which he equates to approximately 40 percent of a distributor’s business.
“Dealers don’t get the same level of service when you don’t have a branch in a territory, nor do you have those personal relationships,” he noted. “They want that one-on-one relationship. They want to be able to call somebody that they know. A lot these guys will call in their orders from their truck and they’ll say, ‘I need a flat-front bracket.' He doesn’t want to have to say, ‘I need a Peerless 660.’ He knows what he wants. There’s something about your commitment to the market when you open up a facility there. Dealers recognize that and appreciate it.”
In addition to the benefits associated with product training programs, Allnet also has a lot of product on display, and sometimes dealers will bring clients by to listen to or look at a system on display.
“We generally have three to four projectors lined up,” Whinna noted. “Best case for most dealers is they’ll have one projector on display in their own showroom and half the time it’s discontinued because they have a hard time turning display product.”
A special rack, Atlona switcher, and Elite Polarstar screen also provide a very convenient way to A-B projectors in the facility’s light-controlled demo room, as well as a simple way to loan out projectors for customer demos.
Allnet generally has three to four projectors lined up in its demo room.
A lot of Allnet’s product line speaks to the trend toward the Internet of Things, wireless multi-zone audio, or streaming music services. That’s how I came across a Christmas present for myself. Prior to my visit, I was unfamiliar with Ring, the connected doorbell that rings on your phone anywhere in the world, retailing for $199, plus a $30 annual fee for cloud recording of the video and audio from motion-triggered events at the door. I decided I had to have one and the generous folks at Ring hooked me up. I bought a wireless chime for $29.99, but it turns out I didn’t need it because I was able to connect the low-voltage wires from my existing doorbell to the device.
Ring's display at the Allnet Carmel branch
As proof of concept for this affordable IoT product, on New Years Day I was out shopping with my wife and daughters when my iPhone vibrated. I clicked on the Ring app that had popped up and saw, via video feed, my dad and stepmom standing at my front door. I accepted the “ring” and opened up a two-way audio line to communicate with our surprise visitors. It was really cool for all of us. They were in town to see my new niece who was born that morning, and we would have been sad if we missed each other. Granted, a simple phone call would have sufficed, but the immediacy of the video connection was as close to face to face as possible without actually being there (we connected for real a bit later). My first Ring experience was almost as a good as the one-on-one capabilities of Allnet’s new location in Carmel, IN.