AV furniture has certainly come a long way in recent years. The humble AV stand was once more or less limited to a cheap and cheerful flat-packed item picked up on the high street, taken home (then usually taken back after realising that there was an essential piece missing), then taken home again before the inevitable grappling with the instructions to make a unit capable of supporting an enormous CRT set.
Thankfully the market has moved away from this, largely on the back of the growing popularity of super slim flat screen TVs, to a situation where the stand is almost as important as the TV it is there to accommodate. The TV stand has undergone something of a make-over and as Armour HE’s PR manager, Steve Reichert, puts it: “In today’s market, we find that design and functionality are far more important than price. The TV/Home Cinema system is the centre piece of the consumer’s home and they are demanding up to the minute styling and better finishes”.
It is certainly true that the sector has benefited from a variety of factors, including the impending digital switchover, and the introduction of HD broadcasts, which have led to more TV sales. And the resultant changing shape of television – quite literally – has also had an affect, with many customers switching from CRT sets to flat screen TVs, with the larger screen sizes becoming more popular. And with customer’s also looking at upgrading the second and third TV sets in their homes, for example, those in the bedrooms and kitchen, it’s not difficult to see that there’s a lot of potential in this sector.
As any savvy retailer will know, the AV furniture sector can be a very profitable one, providing huge sales potential, coupled with impressive margins. As Optimum’s MD, John Ogden puts it: “For electrical retailers, the margins on TVs and electrical goods are relatively small. AV furniture now plays an absolutely vital role in the electrical retail business. As margins on TVs and hardware continue to erode, retailers must stock more profitable accessories in order to survive. Top quality AV furniture is a hugely profitable add-on with very high margins”.
But as always, it is important to stock a range of products, covering both ends of the price spectrum, as there will always be customers that shop on price alone. Neil Drain, MD of distributor Lawton, explains: “The market is divided into two very distinct sectors on this: one which is absolutely governed by price and little else. With so many OEM, import and Chinese drop-ship brands competing for the price-led utility market, retailers might only make a tenner a sale on these items.
“OK, every retailer needs a few cheapie accessories for customers who want a budget solution – but with so many great AV furniture designs now on the market, retailers making the effort to push higher-end designs have the ideal opportunity to put some value and bottom line into the sale of a TV and AV furniture combination”.
Back to black
“The vast majority of AV furniture is now black to match the screen design. AV furniture is now seen as an accessory that can enhance the AV experience, not just a simple stand”, enthuses Paul Davey, product manager (Audio Video) at Vivanco UK.
And Vivanco’s latest collection – the Contour range – certainly follows this brief, boasting a stylish wood construction with piano black and white finishes, along with a cable management system.
Wooden finishes have also proved popular, says Armour’s Steve Reichert: “We’ve noticed a surge in the sales of ‘wooden’ furniture, with strong sales of our Soundstyle Arca and Finewoods ranges”.
Alphason’s latest products – the Aspect, Ambri and Apex stands – are available in several different finishes, most notably the fashionable ‘piano’ black. The company has invested heavily in the design of the products, in an attempt to move away from the conventional ‘four poles and three glass shelves’ scenario.
Following the black finish theme, Optimum’s new Impression range sports a contemporary style, available in satin black or arctic white gloss finish. Each shelf on the stand features a handy cable management system.
A different angle
TechLink has opted for something a little different with its O Series causing something of a stir in the industry. The Ovid and Opod both sport striking designs and are available in the obligatory gloss white and piano black, along with an unconventional poppy red version.
Erard has mixed style with cutting edge design for its latest offering – the Pratik. Guillaume Verlet, Erard’s international sales manager explains the benefits: “The Pratik can be purchased with manual or motorised screen rotation and adjustable shelf height, in addition to back lighting. This backlighting creates a more comfortable ambience, in addition to reducing wear on the eyes”.
The Stellar series from OmniMount allows consumers to mount their screen to a vertical pole which incorporates integrated shelving and cable management. Another new area for OmniMount is wall furniture, as Brian Koperski, sales support manager EMEA, explains: “The tables and racks now become part of the wall and are placed under a wall-mounted display. We have the TRIA 3 shelf system for placing AV components on the three positionable shelves, and integrated cable management to keep it clear and tidy. The step up from TRIA is the Moda system, which features two shelves, stylish wood covering, and additional shelves available to make a complete modular shelving system on any wall”.
Manufacturers in this sector are certainly aware of the importance of the independent channel in selling their wares, with almost all of them offering sales support of some kind. PoS material, training and fast-track delivery are just some of the benefits offered by manufacturers including Optimum, TechLink, Lawton, Alphason, Vivanco, OmniMount, Armour and Erard.
Alphason also runs a window display competition initiative each year, where retailers are provided with £1,000 of stock along with eye-catching banners to mount a display. As well as gaining extras custom, retailers are also in with a chance of winning one of three holiday prizes.
The issue of limited storage space has also been recognised by several companies, as Neil Drain, MD of distributor Lawton explains: “Lawton’s whole trading philosophy is based on giving independent retailers high speed access to thousands of accessory product lines without having to keep a huge stock. We now offer over 2,000 accessory lines, including over 60 different designs of AV furniture, all available on a high-speed next-day delivery service with a minimum order of just one unit”.
BBG, distributor of several AV furniture brands including Azteca, has also recognised this issue, as CEO Gordon Dutch explains: “We are one of the few that have identified smaller and lighter packaging for those retailers that keep stock and also we offer next day delivery on most items, provided they are ordered before 3pm”. Lawton’s Neil Drain has the last word reiterating: “I cannot see the AV furniture sector going anywhere but up in the short to mid term. There are still 15 million homes in the UK without a flat panel TV and many will buy dedicated support furniture when they make the change to flat and HD technology”. The advice is simple: stock up or lose out.
Optimum’s MD John Ogden offers his advice:
- Think quality – Well designed AV furniture always commands a higher price and greater margins, so choose a quality manufacturer.
- Act fast – Link up with an AV furniture specialist that maintains solid stock levels and offers fast delivery.
- Join forces – Forge a strong long-term relationship with your AV furniture supplier to take full advantage of discount deals to maximise profit.
- Show off – Display hardware on AV furniture in store to show how it will look at home.
- Keep slim – Keep your AV furniture range slim – think quality, not quantity.
Avoid trouble and strife
Paul Dawes, sales and marketing director at Alphason, advises retailers selling AV furniture to put a new spin on their sales spiel by not underestimating the importance of the ‘WAF’ or ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’, which he defines as:
“In an object, especially an electronic device, that normally appeals only to men, the qualities or features added to or modified in the object to make it acceptable to women”. This includes features such as cable management systems for unsightly wiring and safety aspects, such as toughened glass shelving.