Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), the buying group for specialty A/V independents, held its 2005 Spring Conference last month at a very special place: the Kanapali Westin here in Maui.
Besides the attraction of a Hawaiian resort, the isolated locale served to build relationships and strengthen bonds between the group and its core vendors. Indeed, dealers and manufacturers were encouraged to bring their families — kids included — in order to add a deeper dimension to their business relationships.
“We're the only family event in the industry,” observed Richard Glikes, executive director of the $500 million group. “You get to know people as people much better than by just sitting across a desk in a tie. The aspect this affords is priceless.”
Forging closer ties with vendors, and learning how to be better dealer partners, was in fact the underlying theme of the conference. “The focus was on the group's vendors,” Glikes explained, and HTSA's supplier loyalty. “Sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not, but we're with our vendors through thick and thin. We don't switch every year. We cherish our relationships [with manufacturers] and are in business for the long run.”
Underscoring the point was the conference's major announcement: the development of a new Intranet site that will allow vendors to communicate directly with all levels of dealer personnel, including installers, buyers and senior management. “It's a pretty big deal,” Glikes said of the six-figure project. “It's a shared portal system with custom programming that will permit sales reporting and better forecasting.”
The theme was brought home in a major roundtable discussion, led by HTSA's president Roger Koehler of The Big Picture, on what vendors expect from member dealers and what it takes to be a good dealer partner. Conversely, attendees also considered what member dealers expect from their independent and factory manufacturers' reps.
Other sessions examined the benefits of gifts cards, led by Prashant Mody of Home Theater Store and Donald SooHoo of Paradyme; how to build an advertising plan, led by Glikes; and a roundtable on sales force productivity during down times.
The guest speaker was consultant Don Neal, who tackled the topics of customer retention, customer information and brand building.
All told, about 150 working attendees were on hand for the confab — dubbed the “Mellifluent Melange in Maui” — along with some 50 spouses and 60 children. Kids were treated to their own private party, while other recreational highlights included whale watching, golf, horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, submarine rides and teen night. Major sponsors of the event included Citi Financial, Monster Cable and Sharp.
Looking ahead, HTSA is looking to expand its ranks in order fill in remaining major markets like Minneapolis where the group is not yet represented. “We've had a lot of inquiries,” Glikes noted, “but we will wait until we find the right dealer. We're not in a situation where we have to add dealers.”
Currently, the group's roster stands at 53 dealers and 140 storefronts. The eventual goal, said Glikes, is 75 members.
In the meantime, HTSA plans to develop an ongoing public relations campaign to increase the awareness and importance of member dealers and their vendors, while creating cost effective co-op marketing tools to brand HTSA independents as the leading home entertainment specialists in the market.
The group will also continue to align itself with vendors offering products in the convergence market, and will develop its relationships with content providers in order to provide turnkey service to members.
TWICE's buying group coverage continues on p. 23.