Turn on NPR’s Marketplace report any weekday afternoon, and you’ll find out the latest stock market reports and Dow Jones Industrial Average—but other than helping to gauge the mood of the typical high-net-worth client, they don’t say much about the state of the custom install market. A recent discussion with the president of national AV products distributor Capitol, however, gave me one of the best signs that business is improving for the channel.
At the start of my conversation with Curt Hayes, I learned that Capitol’s sales of cable and wire over the past two months is up nearly 40 percent over one year ago at this time. It’s a rough indicator that more integration projects, particularly in new builds, are under way.
“We keep reading about housing construction being a little bit better, and maybe this is another positive indicator,” Hayes said. “If you’re going to do prewire in a house, you’re going to have to buy wire and cable first, and a 40 percent sales increase feels substantial in today’s world.
Hayes went on to tell me how Capitol is evolving its product lineup to remain current with the latest technology developments or, in some cases, to drive new opportunities for integrators on the residential and commercial sides of the business.
“We’ve spent the last nine to 12 months searching for items that we thought enhanced our customer’s position in the marketplace.”
For instance Eagan, MN-based Capitol has partnered with Toshiba to provide its LED televisions for residential and commercial applications. “Toshiba’s 4K and cloud-connected TVS are pretty exciting,” Hayes said. “That cloud-based televisions you can take and upgrade apps and all sorts of things and in essence continue to upgrade your television and your viewing.
With screens sizes ranging from 23 to 65 inches, the line is segmented into four series that offer a progressive mix of networking, connectivity, and streaming features so integrators and installers can find a picture-perfect model for every application.
The L1350 series is the most basic, with Toshiba’s Dynalight dynamic backlight, Audyssey sound, dynamic and game modes, three HDMI ports, a USB port, a PC input port, and a high-gloss black finish. The 23-inch model is an Ultra Slim, and the 32-, 39-, and 50-inch models feature the ClearScan 120Hz. The L2300 series offers the option of a gun metal deco and stand.
The L4300 series is equipped with Toshiba’s AutoView and CQ engine—with Color Master, expert mode, and UltraClear DNR—along with four HDMI and two USB ports. It also comes with CloudTV, the company’s server-based smart TV system, which enables users to enjoy more content and in better ways.
Capitol, which has been a Panasonic and NEC telephone distributor for 25 years, also has added a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) telephone product to its mix. SIP phones are designed to be more cost-effective than traditional models, and Panasonic’s line of SIP corded and cordless phone systems are Ethernet-based and expandable with up to six DECT 6.0 handsets, each with its own number. They are also IETF RFC 3261 SIP compliant and support G722 (Wideband), G711, G726, and G729 codecs. The company’s corded SIP systems are HD voice and PoE enabled and conferencing capable. Select models feature two data ports and can use wireless headsets.
To help bring these newer products to market more easily, Capitol has changed its educational approach, as well. “We’re doing more solution-based education,” Hayes explained. “We’re doing them in Minnesota and we’re training 40-50 dealers per month for two-day events. They can take up to eight classes, or they can take one class if they choose to.”
A portion of the distributor’s training is designed to assist traditional residential integrators in making the leap to commercial projects. “One example is, if you have a house of worship of a certain size, how do you place your speakers, what kind of equipment (size of projector and screen) do you need?” Hayes said. “So we can help that integrator become more efficient in bidding those projects and getting those projects for himself.”
Along with the aforementioned growth in wire and cable sales, Hayes noted more new residential integrators entering or re-entering the market, most of whom are looking to expand their commercial offerings, with the correct approach.
“In commercial, particularly houses of worship, it’s a different space, that’s all,” Hayes said. “It’s a matter of how many speakers to place in a room that’s 50x60 with 30-ft ceilings. It’s a little different from a great room with a 10-foot roof and 20x30. Then again the purity of audio is not that important in a room that size, but the distribution of the audio is extremely important and that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”
At the commercial-centric InfoComm trade show next month in Orlando, Capitol will feature Toshiba’s 84-inch 4K television, along with the Panasonic SIP telephone product, at its booth. At CEDIA this fall, the distributor will feature similar products, but may add Panasonic’s plasma to the mix as well as installation training on Panasonic telephone, IP cameras, SIP telephones, and regular Panasonic telephone systems.