In the wake of the recent CES, distributor New Age Electronics President Fred Towns offered Dealerscope observations on some of the most salient trends he took away from the show and how they will affect the consumer electronics product landscape in the near and far term.
“What struck me most was the world of exposure CES gave to voice assistant technology,” said Towns. “It’s in an array of products. Even core, mainstay brands have brought it in and modified devices to accommodate Alexa or Google.” And in peripheral devices, more vendors will be entering the market shortly, he predicted.
This all dovetails into the evolution of existing categories that are morphing beyond their traditional definitions – like light bulbs, for example. “Noting the trend toward LED lighting, he observed, “in Home Depot or Lowe’s, you can’t find a regular light bulb any more.”
These items as they evolve tie consumers into a wealth of other options and ecosystems, Towns said – including, along with lighting, circadian rhythms and the realm of health and well being. “That hit me square and center” at the show, said Towns.
New iterations of existing technologies that were on view at CES will open a whole world of options, he said. Gesture and voice control, AI, autonomous driving’s evolution – all are converging, and “dealers and the industry will be confronting rapid change.
“A digital bridge is being built, and they will have to cross it,” he said.
Towns also noted the 5G “eruption” to come, which he said will be “a game-changer, with the speed and amount of data it can move,” and with its evolutionary curve dependent upon how rapidly the infrastructure to support it is deployed. ‘It will mean a monstrous improvement in devices of today – it will change a ton of things.”
As for 8K TV and its evolution, while there was deliverable product at CES with content yet to catch up, Towns is of the view that sports will ultimately be the fastest enabler of the technology. “There’s lots to it,” he said, and although upscaling technology will allow 8K TVs to display 4K and Full HD, “it’s still the case that bleeding-edge consumers will be the first wave of buyers and will want to have one.”
Towns spoke about transitory factors, such as concern over the partial government shutdown (which was still in effect as we spoke). And while New Age does not deal in major appliances, he also cited the uncertainty surrounding the imposition of tariffs, and the short-term effects of such concerns on vendors, dealers and their decisions relating to inventory management. “At some point, something will have to happen and it could force manufacturers, retailers and everybody to be hyper-sensitive about managing inventory” and rely more on distributors to help them keep a healthy balance and not be “overstuffed.” As for New Age, “we can help by helping dealers keep a healthy level of inventory and enabling just-in-time and drop-ship options so they get a better ROI on their inventory terms.”
Towns also opined on a favorite topic of his when in conversation with Dealerscope – namely, the growing importance in market influence of the female demographic, even more greatly empowered than before as buyers. And, by extension, he noted that he was “excited and impressed to see the evolution of attendees at CES,” in that there were more women than ever. “Years ago, it was male-dominant. There was a broader interface with female executives and company owners. It was a good thing to see.”