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Sony SURE Program Has PRO's Attention

5/19/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Regular Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO) Group attendee Sony Electronics may have been absent this year, but its SURE (Sony Unified Resale Execution) premium-product sales policy was a prime topic of conversation.

PRO reported that Sony had sales meetings the same time as the group's event and could not attend. But competitors were looking at the Sony program and told TWICE anonymously at the meeting said they either had similar programs in place or thought that SURE might take a Supreme Court ruling on setting retail prices from last year too far.

That 5-4 Supreme Court ruling last June supposedly makes it easier for manufacturers to require retailers stick to minimum advertised prices (MAP), a move that dissenting justices said could raise prices at retail.

When discussing the program recently (TWICE, May 5, p. 4), Jay Vandenbree, Sony's SEL sales president, said the company took recent rulings into consideration, but Sony felt it was within its legal rights to do this even before the Supreme Court made its decision. He added that SURE matches what other vendors have done inside and outside the CE industry.

The program will begin June 1 and is designed to maximize retailer profitability, Sony said. It sets the pricing on these premium products with penalties that are in place for those retailers who break the agreement.

Dave Workman, executive director of the PRO Group, said PRO is aware of the program as a group and volunteered, "Sony put this out here to sell more product. They want to establish a baseline profitability. They may sell less product in the short term, but it may help them in the long run. If Sony's efforts create more profitability and sell more product, it will help retailers."

Workman added, "We live off of 'step-up' sales. The key is how Sony will execute the program."

Walt Stinson, co-founder of ListenUp and a PRO board member, commented that the Supreme Court decision just may have "changed the legal landscape" for the industry and that he and his fellow PRO members are "interested and will watch to see how [Sony's SURE program] turns out."