By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New computer and CE–related products were unveiled, while retailers and suppliers networked about current market conditions here at RetailVision, held at the Hyatt Grand Cypress last week
Approximately 170 retailers and 114 vendors came to the 36th RetailVision event, produced by Everything Channel.
The show began with what was titled "Intro," and was designed as an opportunity for retailers to take a quick look at vendor booths. A carnival-themed opening reception was held that night, complete with prize-laden games, a Ferris wheel, candied apples and cotton candy.
RetailVision University presentations began the next morning, with Kevin Jones, Micro Center merchandising VP, giving a sort of "state of the store" address about the chain. He noted that the company's direct-marketing efforts were proving to be positive, and said they are maximizing their online marketing, including weekly and monthly email blasts, transaction-based emails, and homepage and category-based banner ads.
Micro Center opened two new stores in 2007, and Jones showed slides of the northern N.J. location. He closed the presentation with a few sales percentages — the company is privately held, so no figures were given — and the statement that Micro Center is "securing our position as the best computer retailer in the world."
Bruce Koenigsberg, president of consulting firm Koenigsberg & Associates, followed Jones with a presentation about alternatives to traditional distribution for vendors, namely third-party fulfillment. He noted the difficulty new vendors have gaining admittance to conventional distributors. They often require aggregators, Koenigsberg said, which can mean paying monthly fees and commissions.
Koenigsberg emphasized that retailers will accept third-party fulfillment: "It's not a question of 'if.' They're doing it now."
He added, "This is not something new, but many vendors don't know about it, or think they have to use conventional distribution — that's not true." As examples of third-party fulfillment, he cited logistics and fulfillment houses, local warehouses, conventional transportation services, nationwide couriers and electronics fulfillment.
Koenigsberg reminded attendees that vendors must have both internal and external sales reps. "Distributors do not call retailers," he said. "They're strictly box movers."
Casey Hughes, founding partner of KMunity, also gave a speech — which he described as a continued conversation — about the need to rethink the "channel universe." Hughes noted the importance of moving from the old, linear channel model to the new, non-linear model.
The RetailVision University events were closed out by The NPD Group's Stephen Baker, industry analysis VP. Baker spoke of the 2008 outlook, which he described as "challenging," but still holding "growth opportunities."
Baker cited economic and structural category issues as putting stress on the 2008 outlook. "Most of us don't know what to do in a recession," he said. "Our business is a growth business."
Weak demand may undercut the pricing stability that is going on in the industry, according to Baker, and consumers are beginning to plateau in their need for more features in a device. "There aren't so many more features that people want," he said.
But it isn't all doom and gloom for 2008, according to Baker. There are still growth opportunities in such categories as video games, LCD TVs and notebook computers. The digital frame and mobile navigation markets have not finished growing, he said, and mobile phone sales are underrepresented at retail.
While vendors listened to Baker's presentation, retailers gathered in the conference room next door to watch "Fresh," a new addition to the RetailVision lineup. Fresh highlighted 10 new products and technologies that were on display at the show. Those featured in the Fresh presentation included i2i, Anchor Bay, Zyxio, Silicon Valley Global, Green Plug, Mojo Mobility, OQO, Vudu, Toucan Global and Heavy Digital.
RetailVision closed Wednesday night with its annual "Best of RetailVision Awards." See p. 4 for a list of the winners.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.