By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The Progressive Retailers Association (PRO Group) topped off a solid sales year in 2005 with record-breaking holiday business for many of its 16 specialty A/V dealer members.
According to PRO Group president and executive director Roger Heuberger, cumulative group sales rose by the high single digits in calendar year 2005 to approximately $1.9 billion.
And despite some choppy sales results early in the fourth quarter, PRO dealers “rallied strong” in December to post record-breaking numbers. “It was an extremely successful season,” Heuberger said.
Among the standout performers were Ken Crane's and Listen Up, which enjoyed their biggest Decembers ever, and Crutchfield and Abt Electronics, which saw record sales days during the month.
“Some of the numbers were staggering,” Heuberger told TWICE during the buying group's annual International CES soiree, held last month at Bally's. What's more, profits weren't sacrificed for volume. “We didn't lose our heads,” he said. “We saw improving margins in December.”
Heuberger attributed the glad tidings to a rejuvenated tech sector on the West Coast and the departure there of Good Guys, as well as the superior multi-channel shopping experience that PRO dealers provide. “The definition of being a specialist has changed,” he observed. “It's no longer about being a quirky brick-and-mortar store. Our members offer an enormous amount of consultation through multiple customer touch points, including the phone, the Web and in the home. Our customers like talking to us in several different modes.”
Heuberger cited Abt's experiential in-store atrium and Huppin's/OneCall's revamped Web site with natural language and voice interface features as examples of what distinguishes PRO dealers from the retail pack.
Elsewhere, Heuberger said that the group is “holding conversations” with several prospective members, although increasing dealer count is not an imperative. “We're not driven by numbers,” he noted. Meanwhile, existent PRO members, including New Jersey's 6th Ave. Electronics and Electronics Expo, are expanding their store base, while Tweeter continues to roll out its new retail prototype and Huppin's reaps the rewards of its nearly $1 million investment in e-tail technology.
By contrast, Ovation, which entered Chapter 11 last fall, is working on a plan to shrink its store count to four or five locations as it finds its financial footing.
Internally, Mike Abt and Murray Huppin have joined the PRO Group board, and George Manlove, president/CEO of Vann's, was re-elected chairman. In addition, Heuberger continues as CEO, and Walt Stinson, co-founder of Listen Up, and Rick Souder, merchandising executive VP of Crutchfield, were named vice presidents.
On the industry front, Heuberger said he is seeing “modest improvements” in the plasma display pipeline, and that the group will support both camps in the high-definition DVD format war. “There's no reason to choose one format or the other,” he said. “We'll let the consumer decide.”
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.