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Dealers Cautiously Optimistic About Economy

3/22/2009 08:58:00 PM Eastern

Dallas — Dealers and other attendees at this week's Brand Source Summit here expressed cautious optimism about the economy, which some believe will bottom out this year and begin to rebound by Christmas.

While business has improved markedly since December, with strong increases coming in March, traffic and sales remain halting, dealers told TWICE, and seemingly mirror the ups and downs of the stock market.

To return to a growth track, dealers will need to retool their

From left, Audio Room’s David Bunce with PRO Group guests Bjorn Dybdahl of Bjorn’s Audio Video and John Flanner of Flanner’s Home Entertainment

businesses by lowering costs and offering new products or services, they said, and consumers will need to feel more secure in their jobs before making big-ticket purchases.

"It will be a challenging year," said John Flanner, principal of Flanner’s Home Entertainment and a member of the PRO Group contingent that's attending the show. "We will have to work hard and stay focused all year long, not just for a few months, but good things will come out in the end.

"The good news," he said, "is the industry is making fantastic products and people are interested in them. There’s pent-up desire after all the retrenching, and the hope is for a big surge."

Bob Cole, principal of World Wide Stereo and incoming president of Home Entertainment Source (HES), was forced to make some "hard decisions" after overcoming his own resistance to change. But the actions, which included adjustments in staff, salaries and commissions, dropping major lines, and launching his first e-commerce site, have made his company "a smaller, smarter and more profitable business," he told attendees.

Kerry Moyer, senior director of strategic relations for the Consumer Electronics Association and director of PARA, assured HES members that "In my 32 years in the business I have seen a lot of economic downturns, and although this one is very painful, this too shall pass." The industry should begin to see some relief in the third or fourth quarter, he projected.

Jim Ristow, executive director of HES, told members that the economic contraction will likely hit bottom this year, and that some tentative signs of a recovery include recent spikes in the stock market, a resurgence of new home sales and falling interest rates.

"Perspective is everything," he said.

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