As we enter a new decade, we wanted to get some perspective on how the European residential install sector developed during the 2000s. So we asked a selection of the IE Residential community - manufacturers, distributors and integrators - a simple question: what was the high point of the past decade for your company? Paddy Baker reports.
Despite the wide range of companies represented, the answers to our straw poll of highlights reveals a considerable consistency: the 2000s was a decade in which the residential install industry came of age. David Rodarte, president and COO of NuVo, points to a major mid-decade upsurge: "For us, a high point was the quick rise in interest for residential installed products from the European community during 2006 and 2007. The market really turned from being very developmental to more mature deployment of services from more installers across Europe. This corresponded to our rapid growth in the US and the rise of our brand within the installed community."
Certain key technological advances were not only significant for the companies behind them, but also opened the door for other companies to enhance their offerings. At the forefront of these was high definition. Kevin Swanton, UK sales manager at Asheridge Communications, comments: "The arrival and development of HD has hugely increased the quality and range of solutions we can provide as well as creating a demand for distributed and multi-room systems that previously didn't exist. It prompted a shift from single RF points in the home to a demand for a structured network around the house, which if implemented properly can cope with all of the future developments in audio and video technology."
Jon Lane, founder and managing director of Smart-e, points to another HD-related highpoint for his company: "Sky launching its HD channels created an opportunity for us, because the traditional method of TV distribution would now not work. This led to us adapting our existing technology for high-resolution computer video transmission to HDTV."
Sometimes it's easy to forget the relative youth of some products that we now take for granted. "The high point of the past decade was the development and widespread sale of the flat panel TV," comments Neil Curry, OmniMount Systems MD in the UK. "Ten years ago, we were just developing our first flat panel mounts to complement them and now we offer hundreds of options that cover nearly every residential or commercial application imaginable. Prior to that advancement, OmniMount was primarily a manufacturer of audio mounts."
Lighting control was another area that really took off. For John Niebel, sales director of residential systems at Lutron, the most significant development was "seeing the residential lighting controls market grow from being very peripheral to the point where it is one of the central elements of the custom installation industry. Ten years ago a custom installer would have considered using lighting controls on some projects, now they are an essential part of virtually every project. Having played a role in this growth was for me the high point of the decade."
The rise of the sector over the past 10 years is reflected in the fact that a number of the companies that we contacted either did not exist 10 years ago, or were working outside this industry. For instance, Stuart Tickle, managing director of distributor AWE Europe, says: "Overall the high point has to be our successful transition from being a small independent electronics manufacturer into an award-winning distributor in the CI industry. 2010 is our 75th year in business as a privately owned company and our 10th year in the CI industry - not many family businesses can claim such a history!"
A more recent entrant to the market is Opus Technologies. "Opus was only launched in 2002 and there have been lots of notable achievements as we have developed the brand," explains marketing director Simon Hewitt. "But the real highlight for us has been the establishment of the Opus dealer network. Without such a loyal dealer base we could never have accomplished our goals."
Some of those that we contacted have nominated specific product releases. For instance Alan Roser, MD of SIM2 UK, says: "The launch of the C3X in 2005 and its subsequent generations of products with the C3X1080 and C3X LUMIS was undoubtedly the high point of the last decade for SIM2. This was the world's smallest, lowest cost 3-chip DLP projector and not only did it redefine the high-end home cinema market but it also confirmed SIM2's position as the number one designer and manufacturer of high-end home cinema projectors."
LY Chiu, director of Cytech Technology and Cytech Europe, selects a couple of product advances: "In 2002, Comfort became the first security-based system able to interface to the C-Bus and KNX lighting/electrical systems. In 2005, Cytech introduced Comfort II, our second-generation Security/Home Automation system. Its enhanced capabilities have resulted in Comfort being installed in many projects of up to several hundred to 2,000 units each in various countries worldwide."
A number of other respondents have chosen to highlight their overall growth during the decade, rather than a specific moment. "The last decade has been has been all about growth," says Keith Tonge, marketing manager, PMC. "Just 10 years ago we were regarded as the leaders in professional studio monitoring, but with the expansion of manufacturing, distribution and product ranges we have been able to grow twofold. Our portfolio now contains a vastly more diverse spread of no-compromise professional, CI and consumer hi-fi loudspeakers with our own associated electronics."
As befits a brand director, Bert Kiggen of DMi Europe points to his company's development over the past decade from a marketeer's perspective: "Over this period D&M has successfully developed from a collection of independent companies into a business of synergetic premium brands. With the advance of systems integration technologies we have expanded to become a major force in the CI channel, integrating the renowned performance of AV playback components from Denon, Marantz, Escient, and Boston Acoustics with the latest multi-room control and automation systems, and offering best-in-class solutions from a single business partner. Not least, we have gained record market shares in recent years, underlining the strengths of our business strategy."
Finally, we have comments from two companies whose high points came right at the end of the period under consideration. First we have Morban, a distributor-integrator that only came into existence during the second half of the decade. "Morban's high point must be our appointment as one of the first Philips Dynalite Dimension dealers to be posted on the Philips website," says David Rose, head of design and marketing. "Philips Dynalite is proving to be a versatile and powerful control and integration platform which is really expanding the scope for us to design and develop ever more interesting and highly personalised custom installations for our clients."
Last word goes to Adrian Ickeringill, Modular sales manager at Armour Home, who sounds a note to counter all the pessimism and gloom of 2009: "Is it all those wonderful awards we've won? No, without doubt, the high point of the decade has been the last four months' trading. We've enjoyed our best ever sales day, sales month and sales quarter in over 30 years of trading."