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Comings & Goings

Thanks to the National Football League’s schedule, the Super Bowl was held yesterday, Feb. 7, giving the CE industry a full week of to promote HDTV sales at retail.

Traditionally, January is the second-best CE retailing month of the year, right behind December. From what we could see, retailers both large and small took advantage of the extra week with plenty of promotions on HDTVs. And in this still-weak economy anything that can push consumers into stores is a good thing.

Unfortunately, the game didn’t come soon enough for two venerable retailers. Bernie’s of New England filed for Chapter 11 protection and began going-out-of-business sales. And Ken Crane’s of Southern California restructured and closed four of 10 locations.

Over the years, when CE or electronics/appliance retailers have had problems it was due to some form of mismanagement, bad merchandising and the like.

That doesn’t seem the case with Ken Crane’s and Bernie’s. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the overwhelming common problem for both has been how hard the long economic downturn hit their market areas.

In the case of Ken Crane’s, the chain has restructured for the future. A member of the PRO Group, Ken Crane’s is regrouping with its existing six locations to become, in the words of executive VP Pam Crane, “a leaner, healthier company … and put ourselves in the position for future growth once the economy is moving again, especially in California.”

As the doors close for Bernie’s in New England, a door opens for others, in this case P.C. Richard & Son. The metropolitan New York-based and privately held chain said it plans to open five stores in Connecticut and its first stores in the Philadelphia area.

President Gregg Richard told TWICE that the Connecticut move was planned long before Bernie’s filed for bankruptcy.

And its plans for the Philadelphia area will bring P.C. Richard & Son in direct competition with hhgregg, which has been publicly held for a few years and began an expansion program that this year includes its first Philadelphia locations this year, along with stores in southern New Jersey.

Some industry veterans have expressed concerns that they have seen this before, that these two regional chains may be expanding too quickly given the current economic climate.

Yet both P.C. Richard and hhgregg seem to have the management teams, financial backing and business models to be successful in these markets.

It is during economic times like these that companies realign operations or try to expand so they will be prepared when the economy rebounds.  As Gregg Richard told TWICE, “We’ve been investing in our business in a huge way, so when things get better, we’ll be ready.”

Let’s hope things get better rather quickly, for all concerned.