On the second day of the HTSA fall meeting in Chicago, we sat down to talk with the buying group’s managing director, Bob Hana, on the conference, issues facing the industry, and what HTSA members are expecting to face this holiday season:
Q: I just wanted to get your impression of the event and how it’s going so far, and what you’ve been hearing so far.
A: It’s been kind of a continuation of CEDIA. Things have been much more upbeat, both from the member side and also the manufacturer side. It’s kind of positive, as you start to see the economy recover and you start to see their businesses come up. They’re really in a much better mood overall. But as far as the conference specifically, we continue to build more and more value, during our conferences, so that the return on their time and investment is really greatly appreciated by them, and therefore I think they’re enthusiastic to do it, and concentrate to stay focused. And especially this fall one, which is truly about how do we finish the year. Everybody wants to finish the year strong, and [they] have some key things they’d like to push, and to be able to have a venue where they can effectively communicate with each other and talk about that, it’s a good time of year.
Q: In terms of what you’ve heard from people talking, both at this event and from people in general, how do you feel the general mood is? Do you feel like most people’s sales are up?
A: Yes. Most of our members’ sales are up. I think traditional transactional retail is a struggle, and continues to be, and will always continue to be, but the work that they’ve done, even when times were challenging, in trade-to-trade relationships with builders and architects, and the hard work that they’ve done with maintaining their customer base is starting to really pay off, and take traction.
Q: What products and categories are you seeing as bringing growth this year?
A: Home networking is huge. Our business has almost doubled this year in home networking from prior years, which is a testament to the fact of today, you need to own the home network to own the client. Everything as it resides on the network, obviously requires a more robust network. So our average price points are up, the average amount of jobs start with home network now, not an afterthought but as the initial thrust of it so everything can work. So that’s a huge category for us.