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Nationwide Group Urges Members To Join Coupon Program

3/04/2008 01:48:00 PM Eastern

Dallas — Independent dealers’ consultative sales floors will prove an advantage during the analog-to-digital broadcast transition as consumer confusion grows, executives from Nationwide Marketing Group told TWICE.

“Our dealers’ phones are already ringing off the hooks,” said Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), the group’s A/V specialty division. “Even if they don’t redeem a single coupon, dealers need to be seen as the local experts.”

Only 615 dealers in total had signed up for the NTIA’s (National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s) DTV set-top box coupon program as of the beginning of the month, Howe lamented, and Nationwide devoted much of its PrimeTime! convention, held here this week at the Hilton Anatole, to exhorting members to sign on before the March 31 deadline.

Howe has been an outspoken advocate of coupon certification for independent dealers, having voiced her concerns through a recent blog on TWICE.com and at TWICE’s annual Retail Roundtable at CES.

“Many dealers don’t see an upside,” she said, “but there are many analog devices in households, and people over 50 — generally the same folks who can’t set the clock on a VCR — control 70 percent of the country’s wealth.”

Adding to the confusion, Howe noted, is the fact that 2,900 low-power local TV stations and 4,400 transfer stations will continue to broadcast analog signals after the February 2009 cutoff date. Should consumers in those markets purchase one of 50 available converter box models that do not feature an analog pass-through feature, they could conceivably lose their TV signal anyway, she said.

“It falls upon us to educate the consumer,” said executive VP/director Robert Weisner. “While there’s no profit in converter boxes, there is an opportunity to trade customers up from boxes to TVs. The coupon gets them in the store, where you can expose them to new choices.”

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