Best Buy's Magnolia Picks Up Control4

Salt Lake City-based Control4 on Tuesday officially launched its full line of products through Magnolia Audio Video's 21 stand-alone stores nationwide. Magnolia is a unit of consumer-electronics retail giant Best Buy.

"They are right up our alley," Control4 CEO Will West said of Magnolia. "They are one of the leading companies in proven custom installations at a process-driven retail level. They're not just pushing boxes but working with clients to create customized offerings that fit their needs and lifestyles."

Magnolia recently agreed to carry Exceptional Innovations' Life|ware home control solutions, a direct Control4 competitor, in two new stores in Santa Clara and Santa Monica, Calif. Magnolia eventually plans to roll out the Life|ware solution to its other locations. The retailer has no immediate plans to sell either line through its Magnolia outlets within Best Buy locations.

Control4 already sells through 153 Tweeter retail stores and is in test trials with Circuit City. Retailers have been taking on more sophisticated home technology products over the last few months as a way to tap a higher-end clientele and drive more margin-rich integration services. That's forcing independent digital integrators to improve their services and marketing.

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West said Control4 has made clear to its integration partners that a move into higher-end retail is part of the company's overall strategy. He added that there are plenty of opportunities for all types of integrators.

"If the average is about 3,000 custom home-integration companies in the U.S. working on 20 to 30 homes per year, that comes out to 60,000 to 90,000 homes each year. In a slow year, there are about 1.5 million homes built," West said. "So only 4 percent to 6 percent of the new-home construction market is being served. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone."

Maurice Platier, director of sales at Future Tech Home Integration, a Control4 dealer in New York, said well-known retailers picking up relatively unknown products can only help the entire industry.

"This will have a positive impact. The fact that the big boys are playing means the system is viable," Platier said. "Most consumers don't know about these products yet, so this helps improve the name recognition. There are people who say companies like Control4 won't stay in business, but I don't think companies like Magnolia or Tweeter would gear up to support the product if they didn't think it would be around for the long run."