Xentris: Innovating Accessories for the Wireless World

Xentris was founded in 2003, but it’s only the latest iteration of an idea that’s been around and making money for retailers across the country for 20 years. In addition to packaging, merchandising, and selling support, Xentris manufacturers and distributes accessories for wireless devices like cell phones, iPods, netbooks, e-readers, and, the latest gadget to hit the shelves, the iPad.

For most of its customers, the company is a design partner in the development of accessories that follow the latest trends. For some, Xentris also handles inventory management as well as merchandising support.

Not all retailers opt for this value-added service, however, preferring to rely on their inhouse teams. But for the Radio Shacks and Staples of the world who work with Xentris, the company shoulders the money and time it takes to develop top-of-the-line plan-o-grams or product displays, giving the retailers the benefit of carefully designed programs that really work.

Its largest customers are carriers, and Verizon is the largest among those customers; in fact, Xentris is the only manufacturer approved by Verizon to produce and sell its branded products to its dealer agent channels. Though Verizon, specifically, does its own merchandising, it outsources much of its marketing and design work to Xentris.

The industry is young and highly fragmented, but Bill Christy, co-owner, president, and CEO said Xentris is slowly consolidating it and that the recession has helped: when business dropped, smaller competitors that had been surviving on a SKU here or there went out of business and Xentris inherited their customers.

Xentris has grown by about a third in the last 12 months, and Christy said one of the company’s biggest challenges moving forward is convincing smaller customers that even though the company deals with industry giants, it has the resources to devote equal resources to every client.

“We have a reputation for innovation and delivering excellent service every time, and my goal is to show smaller wireless carriers and technology retailers that our team will do whatever it takes for them, regardless of size, to experience success,” Christy said.

Working closely

Xentris is able to promise this because of its operational structure: the company has dedicated teams assigned to each of its clients, so even when something going on with Verizon takes priority, there is still a group of people in the company completely focused on the other client.

The number one priority for these teams, according to Christy, is to be intertwined with the clients. They talk with customers daily and are involved with product development from the very beginning. Many of its customers often look to the company to develop new packaging or accessory ideas; Christy said the benefit of hiring Xentris is having a dedicated team of experts on hand.

“We have people on the ground in Asia, where most tech trends start, going to shows and keeping an eye on the latest trend,” he said. “We also have two full-time designers who spend their days learning about up-and-coming colors, textures, and studies explaining what types of shoppers are interested in those colors and textures.”

He cited a recent example of Xentris’ work: the firm is shipping to Radio Shack a new type of snap-on cover for cell phones made of carbon fiber. This very expensive material is extraordinarily lightweight and, unlike the traditional leather cases, compliments the design of the cell phone. Lance Armstrong approved the cover, so now it is another product in the popular Livestrong line and will be available this summer.

“Our ability to be truly integrated with our customers allows us to not only always understand their expectations, but to always exceed them,” Christy said.

The latest for gadgets

And Xentris has been exceeding all expectations in the last 12 months or so with a whole new line of eco-friendly products, growth in the manufacturing of OEM accessories, and even making its own tech gadgets for retail.

The accessories of the future, Christy said, will all use USB connections so one charger will work for everything from a cell phone to a laptop. Furthermore, Xentris will soon also be offering chargers that don’t continuously draw power from an outlet, they will only use a tiny fraction of the electricity that current chargers use to be able to tell if a gadget is plugged in and ready to receive a charge.

Xentris now offers a wide array of eco-friendly cases; leather made of environmentally safe materials and plastic cases made out of recycled material are two examples. Another is a plastic cover made with an antibacterial product, which Christy said was a reaction to studies showing how cell phones can be dirtier than a toilet seat.

At the moment, the company is in negotiations with OEMs like Motorola, Samsung, and LG to manufacturer their branded accessories for high tech devices like e-readers. But Christy and his team aren’t stopping there: Xentris is also manufacturing the e-readers themselves for other brands, and Christy said the company would continue to look at other products to manufacture.

“We are constantly exploring this very dynamic and exciting industry and are excited about the truly limitless possibilities there are,” he said.