Holiday Game-Changers at the New Age Retailer Summit

The exhibitors roster at this year’s Summit


It was no coincidence that distributor New Age Electronics’ 2017 Dealer Summit last week was held in the world’s gaming capital, Las Vegas. The event, at Steve Wynn’s Encore Hotel, kicked off with young Vegas-area eSports gamers competing during the dealer dinner for dominance on HP OMEN PCs, and closed with an open-air buffet at the Topgolf interactive driving range, where retailers whet their competitive appetites for the holiday buying season to come, capping off two days of buying and learning opportunities.

Fred Towns


“We have a representation of products we felt would be strong, exciting, and ready for the holidays,” Fred Towns, New Age president, told Dealerscope, noting that the emphasis on gaming was meant to impress upon attendees the growth in importance of the category and its corollary accessories – and to encourage them to embrace it for the holidays. “Many haven’t as yet. But dealers, here, I think, were blown away about how big gaming has become, and that it’s real.” In his introductory remarks to dealers, he cited statistics showing gaming PC sales grew 36 percent over the last five years.


Gamers compete during the New Age Summit welcome dinner


He said PCs are now “so robust and full-featured today,” with enhancements to workflow and productivity that easily extend into the gaming arena. “They’re primed for gaming; they can literally run NASA… They process information incredibly fast, have better graphics cards, portability and battery life. And when you’re in areas with no Wi-Fi access, you can play games.”

Connected Home & Voice Control

Another key product area Towns encouraged retailers to train their focus on was connected home. He pointed to the evolution of technology within that category, and the number of companies entering it. As for consumers, he displayed a slide during his dealer speech showing that upper-income households are two and a half times more likely to be “connected,” and are three times more likely to have multiple devices relating to security, lighting and other utilities’ management, wellness monitoring, smart appliances and smart entertainment. “We have to look at the ecosystem, and what has to tie together,” he told dealers.

And then there’s voice control. After playing a video of a Saturday Night Live sketch promoting a mythical Amazon Echo “Silver Edition” for elderly, technology-befuddled users, he remarked, “when a product makes it to SNL, you need to pay attention to it.”

Towns is also touting the small smart appliances category, increasingly app-based and revolutionized by inexpensive sensor technology. “It’s workflow- and lifestyle-changing,” he told us. “These are game-changing products using PCs and smart devices. And you’ll see more of these products, going forward.” He drew a parallel between the inevitable market growth of both connected-home devices and smart appliances to the progress of automotive technology. “It’s like buying a car,” he said. “What’s important in features? A/C? Fuel economy? Wi-Fi? [Picking features is] like buying for the future. The list continues for cars,” and will for these products as well.

New Age is exhorting dealers to keep an eye (or rather, two) on VR/AR tech, as well, which Towns said will need more generational iterations to “perfect the screen for it. Looking at the phone side, they are [working on] super-OLED-type screens with high enough video refresh rates so that people don’t get nauseous and you get a good-quality picture… If now you have to put an $800 phone with a high-level screen in [a headset], what’s it going to cost to put a high-level screen into a pair of goggles? So you’re still looking at an expensive package for now. Till the software is perfected, that will dictate what the display can do… It’s getting there.”

“Smarts” are also percolating into beauty products – cited by Towns as an up-and-coming profit category. “These will take more of a ‘smart’ modeling, going forward,” he said – “light technology for skin improvement, spectrum-light-driven products that improve skin quality. FDA-approved hair-regrowth products, for both men and women.”

Prepping for the Holidays

In sum, the overarching message at the Summit to dealers was: be ready for the “enlightened consumer,” well before Black Friday 2017, which this year, as last, is due to start around Halloween, said Towns. “We all have to remember the customer is coming in far more educated. I keep driving that,” he said. “They already know prices, features, reviews, important aspects of it. They validate everything. So retailers have to give them more than they already know.”

Watch the website for more highlights to come from the New Age Summit.

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