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Abt, NATM Part Company

3/17/2003 10:59:00 AM Eastern

San Antonio, Texax - Abt Electronics and the NATM Buying Group have parted ways, according to the retail organization's president/executive director Bill Trawick.

NATM decided to accept the resignation of Abt because the Chicago-based retailer could not support a core program for the group.

Trawick said at NATM's annual meeting, held at the Westin La Cantera resort this week, that the decision stemmed from a meeting in January where NATM asked for a core commitment to an unnamed consumer electronics supplier. 'In January, Abt, and other members that do not carry that brand, agreed to the commitment.' But just before the annual meeting Abt contacted NATM to say that upon review, the chain could not back the commitment.

'[NATM] is not here to dictate to members on how to run their businesses,' Trawick said, 'but when you join a group like NATM there are responsibilities. With the advanatages [of membership] there are also obligations. What happens if we have another decision down the road like this with another member? It would break down the fiber of the group.'

He noted that while NATM 'wished it didn't have to come to this and we wish Abt all the best,' it was in the interest of both parties to 'accept [Abt's] resignation.'

Abt is the fourth member of NATM to leave the group in the last year, the others being H.H.Gregg, American TV and Sight `N Sound. In recent months Queen City TV and Video Only have returned to NATM after a two-year hiatus.

Trawick noted that while there has been much change at the buying group during the past year, 'we are more unified than we have ever been before. In the past we might have had 50 percent of our members supporting core programs. Now have 100 percent of members backing those programs.'

He noted that annual sales of the now nine-member organization is 'over $2 billion' in major appliances and key categories like big screen TVs and others, with gross sales of all categories probably close to $2.3 billion. But the group is not the $3 billion organization with 17 members of a few years ago.

Admitting that NATM 'is not as big as it used to be,' Trawick said the organization hopes to replace the sales volume of Abt, H.H. Gregg and other departed members with the expansion of existing members. New stores such as Conn's, R.C. Willey, Nebraska Furniture Mart and ABC Warehouse, as well as new members Queen City TV and Video Only, should help build sales volume.

NATM is also actively recruiting new members, but as Trawick explained, the organization will be looking closely at that issue right after this week's meeting. However he stressed, 'New members must be committed to supporting core programs, and they must have a plan in place for future growth. There are markets that have growth opportunities.'

For more on NATM's annual meeting watch for updates at www.TWICE.com and the March 24 issue of TWICE.

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