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Independent Retailers Get No Respect

3/13/2009 04:59:00 AM

So J.D. Power and Associates issued a report the other day saying that “big box” retailers like Best Buy, hhgregg and others provide shoppers with more brand-specific recommendations for big screen TVs than mass merchants like Wal-mart, Target, etc.

The Feedback from our story seemed to indicate that this was a slight against specialty or independent retailers.

We get surveys of various types every week. In reading the details of this report I assumed that this was a straight-up survey between the so-called “big box” retailers and mass merchants.

Of course a reporter should never assume, so I called J.D. Power and Associates today and spoke with Lawrence Wu, senior director of technology practice who helped author the report. He confirmed that the study was indeed a comparison of those two retail channels.

Wu and J.D. Power are well aware of independent retailers. He said that when his company does a consumer satisfaction study on CE purchases it would show how independent retailers are perceived by the public.

The study does not imply that there are only two retail channels to buy big-screen TVs.

But the reaction to this story, inflamed by the recession no doubt, is almost more important than the story itself. It brings back the age-old lament from specialty retailers in the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “We don’t get no respect!”

Some general business analysts don’t consider the role CE specialists or independent electronics/appliance dealers. For instance BIGresearch issued a study that Best Buy and Wal-mart are taking more control of CE sales. What is implied there is that they are the big winners in the departure of Circuit City and Tweeter.

That may be true. But plenty of independents will garner more than their share of sales from the departures of those two chains.

For consumers, unless there is an aggressive local dealer in their area, independents are under the radar and that’s the independents’ fault for not promoting their products and services effectively. Plenty of surveys have shown that in the past few years.  They need help in that regard, from buying groups, distributors, manufacturers, as well as CEA and CEDIA. It is in the industry’s best interest.

At TWICE we highlight the successes and challenges specialty retailers face in this industry on a regular basis. Independents, the good ones, continue to introduce and demonstrate new technology to consumers. In turn they provide consumers with better service than competing retail channels and, when successful, better margins.

CE needs and demands a wide variety of retail channels to survive and thrive. But if independent retailers are taken for granted by manufacturers and consumers, the long-term financial health of this industry will erode.

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