Yabba Dabba Doo!

For DAB manufacturers, 2007 was another growth year, with positive sales and new product ranges bringing the DAB message to the masses.

When it comes to CE products, consumers are always looking to futureproof themselves, as has been seen with HD Ready TV sets already; although a small percentage of the population currently has HD packages, having a HD Ready set has become the norm. This is now the case with DAB, as Simon Iddon, audio product manager, JVC explains.

“With key opinion leaders such as the BBC really promoting DAB as the way forward for radio, consumers are now looking to future proof themselves with their audio system purchases also,” Mr Iddon notes.

This statement can be backed up by looking at DAB sales for last year, as all the manufacturers have found them to be positive, and many added to their ranges indicating a positive outlook for 2008 and beyond.

“In terms of growth in this category, 2007 was a strong year for the Alba Group, especially for the step up brands within the groups’ portfolio,” highlights Scott Steinburg, group audio purchasing director at the Alba Group. Bush continued to perform very well with it range of kitchen radios, CD radios and personal radios. In particular, the PSDAB2004 Personal DAB Radio outsold all other models in it’s category during October 2007. Other key products within the group’s portfolio which were well received by customers in terms of sales and awards were the Ministry of Sound MOSMC057IP (DAB, CD micro with iPod Dock), the Bush TR82DAB (Retro Kitchen Radio) and the launch of the new Goodmans DAB range consisting of the GMR89DAB (travel DAB radio).”

“Our move into multi-function sound systems has also been a great success with the SOUND 23 and SOUND 16 performing extremely well,” continues Leslie Burrage, chief executive, Roberts Radio.

“However, ‘robi’, our revolutionary iPod accessory that allows users to tune into DAB/FM via the iPod, was definitely our Christmas hit,” he adds. “In fact, we apologise to the trade for under-estimating the success as stock became of limited supply.”

Indeed, ‘DAB on the go’ was one of last year’s most popular trends.

“DAB radio on the go is the big trend – it’s new and innovative so appeals to a wide audience plus it is hugely convenient given the iPod is now just as common, if not more so than the mobile phone,” highlights Katie Richards, marketing manager, Intempo Digital.

Another popular trend is that of convergence. Convergence products are a big opportunity in the DAB sector as consumers look for multi-functional products to provide the ultimate music solution. Products with iPod/MP3 playback are performing well and this is fast becoming a standard feature.

Looking forward to what this year will have in store, manufacturers believe these trends are set to continue, and with them, a wider range of products will become available to consumers.

“(We can expect to see) accelerated levels of consumer choice,” says Bob Barnard, general manager of Boston Acoustics. “Products will incorporate every conceivable design – good and bad – at all price points.”

“Continued growth in clock radio, strong growth in iPod docking systems and finally the start of some interesting combined DAB and internet radio products are things to keep an eye out for,” continues Colin Crawford, director of marketing at Pure. “The in-car sector will also receive a boost thanks to the launch of Highway, a central addition to the Pure range which is set to kick-start the in-car DAB market.”

“Convergence is going to remain a key trend for 2008, as is portability in our increasingly mobile society,” notes Ms Richards, Intempo Digital. “Added features and functionality will be important too and as ever so are cool, design led products.”

“Continuation of innovative features such as touch panel, recharge circuits and the introduction of duel DAB + WIFI products,” points out Mr Steinburg, Alba Group. “Continued focus on feature rich specifications with attention to design details at affordable price points.”

“‘Green’ products are likely to continue to be high on the agenda too,” Mr Crawford, Pure adds. “During 2007 Pure responded with EcoPlus, a range of products that are designed and manufactured to minimise environmental impact with reduced power consumption (standby and active), use of recycled materials from sustainable sources, optimum packaging size for transport efficiency and components with minimised environmental impact. The range has just been expanded to include the majority of Pure products making a strong green statement for 2008.”

All in all, you can expect to see DAB creeping into all aspects of the audio market from home cinema to iPod docking systems this year. With the traditional audio market still in decline, key technologies such as DAB are crucial in giving the market a much needed boost.

Throw in the fact that 2008 also sees the launch of the 2nd commercial DAB multiplex, with attendant publicity and extra services available, plus of course, Euro 2008, and you can see that the industry can expect the next twelve months – and beyond – to be very successful.

But with so much positivity going around, we mustn’t forget that the DAB market still has issues to overcome. Manufacturers believe this is important to remember, and to use the market’s momentum to overcome and resolve the concerns.

For example, there is still the quality and consumer confidence issue to overcome.

“Multiples and mass merchandisers should understand the value of reputable brands within the DAB market place,” highlights Mr Burrage, Roberts Radio. “Sadly, retailers’ own branded products that have been introduced do not meet the minimum performance criteria giving consumers a negative experience of DAB. If this sector is to continue to grow we need to give consumers confidence in the product. Roberts continue to produce superior quality product and proves, once again, that volume is vanity and profit is sanity.”

Mr Barnard, Boston Acoustics, agrees. “Sound and build (is important). Far too many cheap DAB radios are degrading a profitable sector.”

Then there is the issue of DAB currently being a UK-only platform.

“This could hinder its progress – the more rapid arrival of DAB+ would be good, and also put the UK on a common broadcast platform with the rest of Europe,” says Ms Richards, Intempo Digital.

But Roberts Radio’s outlook on this concern is much more positive in regards to the outcome.

“Clearly other European markets have been monitoring the development of DAB within the UK and will shortly join the DAB proposition which will ultimately persuade the motor car manufacturers to progress line fits,” says Mr Burrage.

Finally, manufacturers want to make sure that the independents know they have an important role to play when it comes to the continued success of the DAB radio offering.

Their knowledge and sales skills mean that they have been of great support to date, and will continue to do so. Plus manufacturers are happy to offer their support in providing product knowledge etc, in order for manufacturers to continue to make the most from their DAB sales opportunities as wider ranges of DAB products appear.

“Independent retailers need to understand their strengths lie in the relationship they have with their customers, not solely in price competition,” notes Mr Crawford, Pure.  “Independent retailers are the best placed to up-sell from basic models to higher specification models, with associated increased ASP. Better knowledge of DAB and special DAB features is essential for this and Pure is always at hand to help,” he advises.

So there you have it, DAB may still have industry issues to fight against, but overall manufacturers are happy with how the industry has faired to date, and is grateful to the independents for their support in making this success happen. 2008 looks set to be another great year for the DAB sector, and with that in mind, great opportunities for retailers to make the most of!