By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
DALLAS – Nationwide Marketing Group’s largest category — major appliances, with 50 percent of its estimated $14 billion or so in annual sales — is outpacing industry sales in units and dollars, the group reported during its PrimeTime! event, here, earlier this month.
Jeff Knock, appliances senior VP, commented that white-goods sales this year are “real good” and that Nationwide is outpacing the industry in units by an average of 3-to-1. Sales are up in dollars more than 13 percent, he noted.
“We are firing on all cylinders with stellar vendor relationships and … the ability to collaborate with [suppliers] to increase sales and profits,” Knock said.
He noted that sales are good across the board due to “merchandising collaborations with vendors and a strong, focused approach” and a rebounding housing market in much of the country.
Nationwide’s strategic partners in major appliances include Samsung, Speed Queen, Haier and Aga/Marvell.
Knock said the philosophy that Nationwide is using this year is to “swing for the fences every day.”
What has helped is consistent pricing this year, Knock said, with few brands or dealers coming up with unexpected promotions that cut deeply into profits.
Knock added that in major appliances, “one category is not selling any better than the others. The kitchen business is tremendous with multi-unit [consumer] purchases. Collective bundle [sales] are up, and rebates are going through the roof. It is a robust marketplace. We have a simple, focused plan with the cooperation of our vendors, and it is working.”
When asked about the room air category this summer, Knock said sales “got off to a slow start at retail … we had a lot of inventory,” but Nationwide’s members have been able to “move some of that inventory, and still be aggressive.” However he expects that by September “we will be fairly clean.”
While Knock is pleased with overall major appliance sales and cooperation with its vendors, he commented, “The state of [retail] pricing is not perfect.”
He said that vendors and key suppliers continue to offer deals, but that the “key appeal [for the industry] is now the value of the marketplace. The general challenge with [vendor pricing programs] is that there can’t be loopholes. That has improved at retail.”
Dave Bilas, executive VP of the group and a veteran of the major appliance business, said that in white goods for independents, “holidays are still challenging” from a price erosion and profit view,” but at least in the past couple of years, “we know what the sales prices are going in,” meaning surprises are no longer the rule.
Bilas added that as an industry, there are “six, seven holiday [sales days] that the industry centers on, but we put too much emphasis on those days.”
In related news, Bilas said that one of its distribution partners, DSI Distributing, is testing in West Texas a delivery strategy for smaller Nationwide members that includes consumer electronics, major appliances, furniture and bedding.
This “fulfillment program,” as Bilas called it, is new for DSI since it has always been a CE-centered distributor in which DSI buys direct through manufacturers and ships to Nationwide dealers in the area.
The test program has been successful but is “developing slowly to see how it works,” as Bilas put it, to service these rural markets. DSI executives at Prime- Time! did not want to discuss it on the record, but if successful, this program may expand.
Knock said that it is these types of programs, as well as its successful rollout of the Info-Pad program, that has helped expand Nationwide’s majaps sales.
“We are focused on our members, trying to upgrade the experience of our salespeople on the floor, and bring new people [into stores] and attract next-generation consumers to grab market share when we can,” Knock said.
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.