It has been a difficult year. The television boom, fuelled by consumer demand for flat panel screens is now largely over and the industry is once again in a replacement market. Persuading consumers to replace visual product through innovation is now the challenge, be it 3D, internet connectivity or other technology. DVD-based product are increasingly packaged with screens and hold little sales value. Hi-fi sales are slow, with audio equipment now dominated by iPod docks.
How ironic it is that all the key consumer electronic manufacturers produce product into which the mighty Apple iPods are docked. There is, however, growth in one sector; it is custom installation.
Like most other retailers, we see the turnover generated by sales on the shop floor decline year-on-year. Custom installation business, is, by contrast up by 20%, and as I write, I am even considering employing more installers and purchasing additional vehicles to keep pace with demand. My team of six full time installers are currently booked three weeks in advance, and I fear that I am losing business due to this (unacceptable) back-log.
So what is driving this growth? Firstly, the thirst for ever larger screens. I remember, only four or five years ago, when 28 and 32in were considered as large screens, now consumers are demanding 50, 55 and 60in panels. And with consumers often dedicating a room within their homes for media entertainment, these large screens are commonly wall mounted (providing an opportunity to supply high margin sundries, such as a wall bracket and associated cabling, as well charging for installation) and connected to a 5.1 home-cinema system.
Secondly, there is a healthy demand for multi-room audio installations. At Moss of Bath we do particularly well with Sonos, which provides a fantastic opportunity for the independent retailer. Multi-room audio installations, by their very nature, often lead to other opportunities for business: CAT5/6 network cabling, CAT5/6 switching, ceiling and in-wall speakers, hard-drive storage and again – installation charges. Thirdly, for those retailers with their own in-house satellite and aerial teams, there appears to be a healthy appetite for Sky multi-room, difficult non-standard Sky and foreign satellite installations, and aerial work.
Having nurtured relationships over many years with builders and developers, we now undertake complex switched satellite and aerial installations within multi-occupancy buildings, which can be very profitable and inevitably lead to the purchaser of the property visiting Moss of Bath for their product.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to visit a HM prison near Gloucester to provide an estimate to supply and wall mount a few screens. Whilst talking to my contact there, I enquired as to how he had heard of Moss of Bath. He replied that he had for years supported his local independent retailer, but when he asked them to wall mount a few screens they had said that they did not provide a wall mounting service and advised him to contact Moss of Bath. We have since received further orders from the prison and as they (the prison) expand their facilities and accommodation, we will inevitably be asked to quote for further works.
The moral of the story – our industry is constantly changing both in terms of products and services, the future is bright for the independent retailers so long as they provide the products and services required by the consumer. I embraced custom installation years ago and have never looked back. It cannot be bought online and it still has a value. The opportunity is there for all, my advice is to take it.