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PRO Group Partners With eBay

1/10/2012 02:16:13 AM Eastern
LAS VEGAS - The Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) is partnering with eBay to further its members' e-commerce strategies.

The alliance, announced last night at the buying group's annual International CES soiree at Bally's, will lead to a storefront presence on eBay that will provide greater traffic for PRO's specialty A/V dealers and improved visibility for their value-added services, the group's executive director/COO Dave Workman said.

Conversely, the partnership will "enhance eBay's consumer electronics shopping experience through the selection, knowledge and service provided by the PRO Group's world-class retailers," said Noah Herschman, eBay's senior director/chief electronics merchant.

The new pact is part of a larger initiative by eBay Electronics to build relationships with independent dealers and their vendors. Herschman said his company can help support the independent channel by sharing its 11 million CE enthusiast shoppers and providing e-tail services including store design, payment options, MAP tools, authorized dealer badges, inventory management and even mobile shopping apps.

Two PRO Group members, Huppin's/OneCall and J&R Music & Computer World, already maintain eBay stores.

Getting in on the ground floor of the initiative will help give PRO's "bricks-and-clicks" dealers higher priority on product searches, while helping eBay develop the CE category and change its image as strictly an auction site, Workman told TWICE. The e-commerce platform, which is the second most heavily trafficked in the U.S., also provides an alternative to the third-party marketplace on Amazon.com, where dealers have a smaller profile and remain in competition with the e-tailer.

 "It's an incredible opportunity and will be an important part of our e-commerce strategy," Workman said.

Both partners said they plan to build on the relationship and develop specific initiatives early this year.

Herschman, who was a member of PRO Group during his tenure at Tweeter Home Entertainment, said the goal is to integrate all member dealers into the platform this year. The agreement, he said, "represents the maturing of the consumer electronics retail business ... as a new retail environment emerges and the lines blur between offline and online shopping experiences."

The deal "will help foster a true specialty electronics shopping experience in this retail environment," he told TWICE,

eBay describes itself as the world's largest e-commerce company, with nearly $62 billion in auction and fixed-price transactions worldwide last year.

Herschman, whose nearly 30-year career in CE merchandising included executive stints at Tweeter and Amazon.com, joined eBay in August from Staples China.

Separately, PRO parent group BrandSource reported its best Black Friday promotion ever as a result of new incentives and options offered through its Expert Warehouse II distribution program. The fulfillment initiative, managed by Ingram Micro, offers more than 8,000 SKUs in multiple categories and improved logistics, warehousing, shipping and billing efficiencies. Its wider assortment of brands, solutions and categories, including laptops, tablets, headphones, iPod docks and IT-networking components, were developed to help members drive store traffic, boost sales and augment planned purchases with rent-to-own options.

"We're firmly committed to finding new ways to offer members more choices and better prices," said Jim Ristow, executive VP of PRO partner group Home Entertainment Source (HES). "The Expert Warehouse II initiative levels the playing field for our members because it's designed to help them go head-to-head with big box stores."

Meanwhile, on hand at the ProSource shindig were Earth, Wind & Fire band members Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, to support their Gratitude headphone line by Monster.
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