Venerable appliance retailer enters home controls market

Sears, Home Director launch authorized integrator program
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Thursday, January 1, 2004

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - One of the most trusted sellers of home appliances is making inroads in the home integration market through a partnership with a home controls system manufacturer and an authorized integrator program that already stretches across the United States.

At press time, Sears, through its Sears Connected Home program, a partnership with home networking product manufacturer Home Director, had already signed on about a dozen integrators located in major markets across the country, and in states such as Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, as well as North Dakota and Michigan.

“It’s a mutual strategy,” said Bob Baker, director of business development for the Sears Connected Home program. “Sears has thousands of builder relationships through its appliance sales. We are leveraging those relationships, but the integrators are also bringing their own relationships.”

While the program is part of Sears Product Repair Service Division, a business unit that installs more than one million pieces of equipment for Sears stores each year, Sears Connected Home relies on the installation expertise of the home integrators.

“Sears, CompUSA, they are see the potential of the homeowner technology market,” said Kelly Doster, chief executive officer of Network Traffic Controllers, or Netracon, a new Sears home integrator in Dallas. “Sears has a real market presence and we are hoping to capitalize on some of their market success.” CompUSA launched its own integration program last spring.

By signing a contract with Sears, integrators become subcontractors to the program and represent themselves to builders as an authorized Sears representative. The builder will then sign the contract directly with Sears, who bills the builder and pays the integrator.

Home Director officials, who did not return calls to Security Systems News for this story, said in a press release that they expected an impact on revenues from the program beginning in the fourth quarter of 2003 with increasing impact through 2004.

For Sears, the Connected Home program represents the beginning of a new strategy into driving appliance sales, particularly to the new homeowner base looking to add these type of features to their new home. The company was involved in home security through a licensee program in the late 1990s, but the advent of the low down, mass market approach made the program not a worthwhile venture, Baker said.

Although most integrators in the program are experienced with builder relationships, such as Hacienda Security & Sound in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Ackerman Technology Group, a home technology spin-off from Ackerman Security in Norcross, Ga., most integrators are hoping to significantly boost their stake in the new home construction market.

“We work with about eight builders, but have lost some business to builders who have signed on with a national program,” said Steve Compton, managing partner at Hacienda. “We thought, ‘why don’t we join a national program.”