A few weeks back I got a call from a friend of mine who is 42, lives in an upmarket beach community in Southern California and is well employed in the financial services business. He and his beautiful wife (and two adorable young daughters) are renovating their house, including a new kitchen and many key modifications to their cottage by the beach. Smartly, they moved out while work was being done and now was the time to talk about the home theater needs of their much upgraded home.
My buddy found an independent "trunk slammer" installer (as the retail guys like to call them), who was willing to work at a very fair hourly rate and sell gear with a modest retail discount. My buddy sent me the installer's bid and the entire project was proposed at a modest $4,500. I had a number of questions including: Where's the Blu-ray player? You're an Apple household - why no $99 AppleTV? My buddy asked me about Speakercraft speakers and I said they were good, but this family is very into green living and I suggested Noble Fidelity speakers, which are only a few hundred more dollars per pair. I got unexpectedly bitch slapped. I heard from my friend: "A few hundred? What's wrong with these?" Ouch. I was told when I sold stereo systems back in the day, if you couldn't get your client up about 20 percent, than you weren't selling - but these times that we live in now are very different. A mutual friend of ours who is an uber-high-end installer, who only works on projects above $100,000 total cost, offered his brand new Samsung 58 inch 8000 series LED HDTV for $1,500 (below dealer cost) to our mutual friend and got a polite but similar response. Nobody understands the pressure (monetary and otherwise) of renovating his or her home like I do. I've been there. Hell, I lived through it while the construction was underway, but $99 for an AppleTV? $299 for a Harmony Remote? $199 for an LG Blu-ray player? An extra $500 for kick-ass "green" speakers? I wasn't trying to blow the budget for anybody in any way. I was just trying to highlight some of the best, coolest new toys that our industry has to offer.
Clearly things have changed in the market when it comes to specialty AV over the past few years. The value added upsell that was a part of the normal sales process, that helps people find out about the good stuff is meeting resistance like never before. High bang-for-the-buck products like Oppo Digital's Blu-ray players, NuForce Amps, Orb Audio speakers, Aperion speakers and Emotiva's $699 AV preamp are selling by the thousands while $20,000 plus LED projectors hang on ceilings with customers asking "Why would I ever need that?"