Savant’s surprise business acquisition underscores the growing recognition and viability of the residential integration channel in the large consumer market
Last week, seemingly out of left field, Savant Systems announced that it was in the process of acquiring GE Lighting, a storied brand with more than one hundred years in operation solidifying its name recognition. It’s a little fish swallowing a big fish — a scenario that is rarely seen in nature let alone the AV tech industry. The significance of the acquisition for residential integration in particular, is just as dramatic: a niche market channel leaping up and netting a popular consumer brand.
“If you look at the power of this acquisition, it’s really brand and access that you get,” Paul Williams, GE Lighting’s general manager of product management and growth told AVNation’s Matt Scott. “We’ve got fantastic people at GE Lighting and then there’s technology that’s part of that. The technology is not just the electronics, software and all of these things, it’s also our supply chain and our sourcing and our distribution ability. We’re really going to fine tune that and that’s going to be a big boost to what Savant is doing today to help dealers out and make sure they get the product when they need it; to make sure that we are lowering costs when we can to give the most affordable and best products on the market. Really fine tuning that supply chain is going to be a big deal.”
On the face of it, GE Lighting’s folding into a well-respected home AV integration manufacturer’s brand is also a sign that residential integration itself is emerging from the niche shadows of consumer tech. We often joke in the industry, as Fregosa Designs’ Rich Fregosa notes, that AV integration still has a bit of that wild, wild west reputation clinging to it.
“The big thing about this is that it’s an opportunity for manufacturers, both from the general public side and from our industry side, to focus on coming together more than ever,” Fregosa says on how the acquisition brings an often misunderstood sector like AV integration into the large consumer conversation. “The technology shifts are happening to the point that you can be innovative and you can bring out a product that’s unique in its market and you can also partner with a large manufacturer with an established name and shed new light on the market.”
Pun not withstanding, Savant’s acquisition coup is also a boon to its own operations, as Josh.ai’s CEO Alex Capecelatro observes, not only in terms of the company’s reach but also in how it develops its manufacturing and supply chain. GE Lighting brings to the table a deep knowledge of the market as well as established international roots in sourcing and manufacturing that will likely be a big boost to Savant’s robust but relatively smaller operations, a point not lost on Capecelatro, who notes that most integrators and other key players in residential AV integration don’t truly understand how difficult it is to build hardware from conception to delivery.
“This is something that Savant has had to figure out over many, many years probably with many different manufacturing partners,” Capecelatro says. “And I imagine GE Lighting is going to offer decades and decades of insight into ways to make that more efficient. Ultimately, I am excited. I think about it not too dissimilar to when Lutron bought Ketra with the roles sort of in reverse. In that case, Ketra had some great technology, but I think they were struggling with how do we scale up? How do we keep quality and control? How do we build the right distribution arm? In that case, Lutron was really able to help with a lot of those pieces.”
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