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MEGA Group Places Record Orders At Show

3/16/2011 10:13:48 AM Eastern

San Antonio - MEGA
Group USA, the 1,500-member furniture, majaps, CE and mattress buying group,
placed a record number of sales orders at its just-concluded convention here at
the Grand Hyatt this month.

 MEGA Group president Rick Bellows addressed members at the buying group's spring convention in San Antonio earlier this month.
 MEGA's show drew some 1,000 dealers, who drove a double-digit increase in orders.

According to MEGA
president and chief majap merchant Rick Bellows, orders were up double-digits
over last year's spring show, and were ahead 30 percent over the group's last convention
in San Antonio in August 2009.

"The show exceeded
our expectations," he told TWICE, and reflected the generally upbeat mood of
MEGA's membership. "The first couple of months of the year were tough, but it's
no different than it's always been. There is business out there - you just have
to work a little harder and smarter to get it."

Orders also
increased in advance of next month's planned price hikes by major white-goods
manufacturers. "The timing was right to take advantage of buys and
opportunities out there," Bellows noted.

Even still, majap
shipments to MEGA were up more than 10 percent in January and February,
compared with a 5 percent decline industrywide, he said.

Attendance at the
event was "right where we budgeted," Belows added, with some 1,000 dealer
attendees and 400 vendor personnel on hand, representing 400 retail companies
and 85 exhibitors. The latter included LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sharp and
Toshiba on the CE side, and Electrolux, GE, Samsung and Whirlpool in
appliances.

A major initiative
introduced at the show was WebFronts Premium, an affordable e-commerce program that
represents a step up from the buying group's basic offering, first introduced
in 2007. The new two-tier platform is highly customized and features virtually unlimited
product catalog capabilities, advanced merchandising, price tools, unlimited
shopping cart, advanced search engine optimization techniques, automated rebate
center and product-comparison capabilities.

Belows said
WebFronts Premium will give members a competitive advantage by providing access
to 10,000 SKUs and uniquely accommodating each of the group's four main product
categories within a shopping cart.

"We had to have an
e-commerce site as good as any in the country, and spent a lot of time developing
a premier web presence that will take a back seat to no one," he said. More
than two-thirds of MEGA's dealers presently participate in the group's website
programs.

Also announced at
the show was the appointment of 15-year majap industry veteran Missy Hodges as
appliance merchandise manager, with additional responsibility for the group's
circular program.

MEGA was created
in 1982 as a chapter in the now-defunct Key America buying group, and went
independent in 1997 with just 75 dealers. Today the Memphis-based
organization encompasses some 2,500 storefronts and accounts for more than $2.5
billion in sales, with about half in furniture, 30 percent in appliances, and
10 percent each in CE and bedding.

Despite its size
MEGA still operates like a smaller group, with constant communication between
dealers and headquarters staff. "We're always listening and responding to our
members needs," Bellows said. With every program and every service we ask
ourselves, ‘How does the dealer win? Will it drive traffic or add margin?' If
not, we move on to something else."

MEGA and its
members will next convene for the group's fall show Aug. 25-28 in Nashville.
While San Antonio is "a terrific destination with great facilities, Nashville
is the heart and soul of the group," Bellows said.