By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Executives of the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) claimed said that the 12-volt trade organization is "100 percent stable" and sought to allay industry concerns over recent changes including the departure of long-time executive director Rick Mathies.
In the past month, MERA postponed several spring regional trade events and reduced its staff from five members to two. Mathies resigned to join the new MES buying group, a joint effort between MERA and Brand Source.
In addition, the organization has gradually lost members, declining from 600 in 2001 to less than 350 at present
MERA VP Barry Vogel defended the group by claiming it is "100 percent stable." He noted, "As far as the changes in the association, all of the changes we're making are positive and it will take some time to show. No one is going to detect any changes in services … I think you are going to see some major improvements at MERA."
He continued, "One of the problems we've had is people who belong to MERA and are active, see the value in it. Those who are not, see no reason to be in it. We've done a poor job of getting that message out, showing who MERA is and what we do. I think we can change that situation. You will see some major qualitative and quantitative developments over the next few months that will make it obvious."
The spring regional events were postponed because of lack of promotion, Vogel said, as the organization concentrated instead on promoting its main event, KnowledgeFest in March. New dates for the events were announced last week as: Sept. 7 in Albany, N.Y.; Sept. 21 in Portland, Ore.; Oct. 12 in Kansas City, Mo.; and Oct. 26 in Birmingham, Ala.
Also this month, Jim Montoya was appointed interim director at MERA, replacing Mathies. Montoya said his first order of business is to work with the MES buying group.
Another goal is to outsource some of MERA's tasks to reduce costs. MERA's Integration Excellence software that helps retailers stay abreast of integration kits and devices will likely be marketed and managed by the software's developer, Victory Technologies, as an example of "outsourcing," said Montoya.
He said the organization plans to increase member services "that are meaningful and useful to the dealers, not only for KnowledgeFest, but for every day of the year."
One idea is to offer webinars to explain the Integration Excellence software. Another goal is to improve membership.
Montoya noted that while Mathies came from a retail background, his background is in association management as he ran his own trade association group, Montoya Management, for 18 years. Montoya merged with The Raybourn Group three years ago. Raybourn manages MERA — MERA executives are employees of Raybourn — and Raybourn also managed CEDIA until this month. CEDIA grew from a three-man organization to one employing 30 to 40 managers, under Raybourn.
Montoya said, "I'm excited as to what the possibilities are, not only with the association, but the industry."
MERA also expects to work with the new 12-volt summit to be held in Dallas, July 16-17, which is being supported by Pioneer, Alpine and other suppliers and organized by the Sabatino Day Williamson Group.
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