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Numbers Can Be Deceiving

5/23/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

That’s a heck of a headline to put on this column
considering all the work TWICE, in partnership
with The Stevenson Company, did in
preparing this year’s TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers
Report, which is traditionally one of the most
awaited features we do each year.

But more than a few of you know what I’m getting
at.

 Amazingly this year’s Top 100
CE Retailers rankings, which
track the prior year’s annual
sales, show that about two and
a half years into the “new normal”
economy CE sales grew 5.8 percent
at retail during 2010.

More than a few of you – retailers,
manufacturers and distributors
– have to be scratching your
collective heads saying, “How
can that be possible? Our business
was ‘X’ last year? How can
it be in a year that Bernie’s, Ken
Crane’s, GameCrazy, MeyerEmco,
not to mention Flanner’s and
most recently Ultimate Electronics have bitten the
dust?”

No, believe me, I am not second-guessing the
great work that Bob Tancula and his team at Stevenson,
or our own Alan Wolf, or even yours truly
did in gathering and vetting this list. Remember
every year our Top 100 measures the entire CE
retail industry, not just the usual suspects.

The industry has changed, once again, to no
one’s surprise. But the new products that were
ascendant in 2010 and continue to be are smartphones
and iPads. What’s different about the
industry’s technological changeover this time as
compared to many others we have seen is that
more new suppliers have come in to dominate, vs.
traditional brands.

The same thing is true on the retail side. Barnes
& Noble, on the strength of its Nook e-reader, in
the words of Alan Wolf  “blasted its way
onto the rankings,” at No. 66. But that’s nothing
compared to the new No. 4 on our list, Amazon.
com, with a 72 percent increase in sales that now
has both Walmart and Best Buy looking over its
shoulders.

And of course the company
from Cupertino, Calif. that seems
to be an industry inside of an
industry. It had a 26 percent gain
in CE sales based on the popularity
of iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch,
etc., making it the No. 3 retailer in
our Top 100.

Since International CES in
January, almost starting with our
annual retail roundtable in Las
Vegas (which appeared in our
Feb. 21 issue), in just about any
discussion TWICE has had with
industry leaders, some lament at
the state of the industry. Others
have said – and shown with their
actions – that companies have to embrace this
change to survive and thrive.

You can’t do anything about macro-economic
trends, or the rising price of gasoline and other commodities,
and you can’t do much about unemployment.
(Although hhgregg is doing a helluva job on
its own, hiring plenty in its expansion drive, isn’t it?)
Here’s a reminder about the nature of this industry
from CE Hall of Famer Joe Clayton, who was
just hired as DISH Network’s president/CEO
(see p. 4). He told TWICE last week, “Technology
always changes the landscape so that is nothing
new... But for the consumer we have to provide
better value, enhanced services … really adding
additional services to the equation. I see these
technology changes … as an evolution.”

Amen.

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