i3 | May 08, 2019

Profitable New Categories Set for Retail Rollout

Steve Smith

Opportunities abound for independent retailers when it comes to technology-related products this year. Independents are well-positioned to sell new categories now and in the future. Anyone who attended CES 2019 saw and experienced plenty of new technologies that will change their businesses and their lives.

The rollout of 5G, 8K, AI and VR are providing new, more profitable products for retailers to sell, especially independent retailers. Independents are in a unique position to not only sell products, but explain them in-store and — just as importantly — via their online presence and social media.

Many products that are being introduced are in local or regional independents’ familiar comfort zone of home technology, even though they blur the line between electronics and appliances. Since they know their customers and know how to sell and merchandise for the home so well, these dealers are in a sweet spot to sell them profitably.

Two products made an impression on me during this year’s CES that can effectively be sold by independent electronics/appliance retailers nationwide. But there are hundreds that debuted at the show which will make a major impact at retail during the year. One of the products represents a new category and the other takes that old standby, the home refrigerator, and takes it to the next level. Both are innovative enough they have the potential to become popular and profitable for the suppliers and retailers.

Innovative Models

LG Electronics’ Styler Black Tinted Mirror Glass Door — a smart, high-tech wardrobe — can be considered a “disruptive technology” that, if it becomes popular, will impact the dry-cleaning industry. As LG puts it, the Styler has “the ability to keep clothes hygienically clean and looking their very best.” The unit “refreshes” up to four garments “including a pair of pants in the door” simultaneously. Styler uses LG’s SmartThinQ AI technology and its proprietary TrueSteam device, which “eliminates over 99.9 percent of the germs and bacteria found in clothing and is certified as asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).” If Styler is successful — meaning other brands enter the market with different price points — for many families, frequent trips to the local dry cleaner may be a thing of the past.

Samsung unveiled the next generation of its Family Hub refrigerator, even as the concept for using this traditional appliance as part of what it calls “connected living” is still a relatively new idea. This year’s Family Hub refrigerator features the Family Board, “a communal screen that family members can interact with in a personalized way,” as Samsung describes it. This year’s Family Hub features Samsung’s Bixby with AI capabilities featuring voice ID technology, which now handles food management, family communication and entertainment. Users also can call an Uber, get plane tickets via Expedia and pre-set the oven temperature by talking to the Family Hub.

And as the High-Tech Retail Marketplace and Summit at CES indicated, retailers will not only be selling products with AR and VR, they will use these technologies to educate, market and sell consumers these new crossover products.

These new home technology products are examples of devices that must be explained in-store or online to set consumer expectations. Many will use 5G, 8K, AI and VR — alone or more likely in some combination — by retailers in the years ahead. Merchandised and distributed wisely, profits should flow.

Steve Smith