Should drones be a specialty item?

Discussion
Dec 16, 2015

Expert Drones, with three mall-based stores and an e-commerce site, claims to be the first brick-and-mortar retailer dedicated to the sale of unmanned flying machines. The upstart believes it has notable advantages over the mainstream sellers of drones.

The stores carry a much larger selection than the big boxes, department stores and tech specialists, like Brookstone, also hopping on the drone trend. Expert Drones is an authorized dealer of several high-end devices. Overall prices range from $40 to $4,000.

The stores come with an expert staff to offer advice, and contain service departments to handle any operational issues. Speaking to the risks and regulations soon arriving for drones, training classes are offered.

"People can pay to get an expert to come out and show them every function of the drone," Brett Velicovich, one of the founders, told nj.com.

With a focus on high-end shoppers, the stores are located at better malls, such as Tyson’s Corner Mall in McClean, VA; Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, AZ; and Houston Galleria Mall. A location in Westfield Garden State Plaza will open in spring 2016.

[Image: Expert Drones]

The chain concept arrives as drone sales are expected to surpass 700,000 this year, up from 400,000 sold in 2014, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Beyond hobbyists, the growth is being driven by commercial use by the real estate industry, farmers, broadcast professionals and other industries.

With drones projected to be a huge holiday seller, the FDA is racing to impose new regulations, including requiring drone owners to register the devices. The regulations are meant to address the danger from drones flying too close to airports and other reported incidents.

Currently, hobbyists can fly drones as long as they keep them under 400 feet, at least five miles away from an airport, and never over crowds, sporting events or emergency vehicles. Many owners also don’t know a pilot license is required for commercial use.

"Regulation is a good thing," Mr. Velicovich told nj.com. "It protects consumers."

Should sales of drones be reserved for specialty retailers with strong product knowledge, advice and service? Do you see regulations putting a damper on the opportunity for retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"As a shopper who purchased two drones as gifts this holiday, I can testify that the category is overwhelming to the average consumer!"
"I think the market place will decide where drone sales do best. But it’s the wild, wild West as far as I can tell when it comes to drone use."

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6 Comments on "Should drones be a specialty item?"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Drone sales should not be reserved for specialty retailers. Let the marketplace decide which drone sellers will win and lose. Regulations are needed to govern drone use and if those regulations cut into sales, so be it. Drone operators cannot be allowed interfere with law enforcement, fire-fighting or endanger commercial airline flights, as they have in the recent past.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

As a shopper who purchased two drones as gifts this holiday, I can testify that the category is overwhelming to the average consumer! The online reviews are confusing and contradictory.

The sheer number of choices of drone styles, sizes and configurations is overwhelming in itself. There are few “established specs” like RAM, hard drive and screen sizes in computers. So it is very difficult to make a value comparison between drones at a similar price point.

Just as gaming hardware evolved into specialists like EB/Gamestop, drones is a large enough and growing category to warrant a retail specialist with product knowledge, selection and hands-on demos. And by the way, I now read that beginners crash a lot and need a lot of extra parts — a major service repair opportunity!

Government regulations will actually help specialty drone retailers — a lot. There will come a time soon where consumers will have to demonstrate their ability to fly their drone safely … a perfect opportunity for the retail specialist to assist consumers in getting certified.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Have never shopped for a drone but can easily see the need for expert advice when making a purchase. The impact of the just-released FAA regulations is yet unknown but I believe it should strengthen the position of specialty retailers.

Tom Redd
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Sure, but those stores will last as long as model train stores. Drones, like all specialty hobbies, seem to do better on the web. All regulation paper work can be made available on the web. Some stores would be fine, like the limited number of high-mix, strong-focused motorcycle apparel stores. Most gear is bought online for bikes but there are a few stores in the U.S. that are huge that have matching websites — strong and huge! Drone Geek events will also prosper in the next few years.

Then we will move to “Take out the Drone” shooting events and drone parties. Cannot get in without your drone. Trends are so much fun in retail!

Joan Treistman
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

I think the market place will decide where drone sales do best. I’d prefer purchasers to want expert product knowledge and prevent risks to themselves and others when they use drones. But it’s the wild, wild West as far as I can tell when it comes to drone use.

Regulations may be carefully crafted and enforced for safety purposes, but there’s a limit on how successful they will be. I doubt they’ll have much impact on retailers.

Sorry, I’m more concerned with the impact on people…on the ground and in the air. Note, the incidence of lasers interfering with pilots in airplanes are now classified in the “to be expected” category. Scary.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

It is just a matter of time before regulations take over these devices. Most people use them for fun, however, they are a short-attention-span novelty for most as of today.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As a shopper who purchased two drones as gifts this holiday, I can testify that the category is overwhelming to the average consumer!"
"I think the market place will decide where drone sales do best. But it’s the wild, wild West as far as I can tell when it comes to drone use."

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