It's always busy in the CE industry, but the last few weeks have been unusually hectic.
Generally, when we compile the TWICE Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers report, it is during the relative calm of the spring, which is usually filled with product line shows and buying group meetings.
So, the PRO Group held its annual spring meeting earlier this month — and a merger broke out between two of its members. Actually, Harvey Electronics is buying MyerEmco, but Harvey called it “a merger of equals,” so we'll leave it at that. As I said in a blog on our Web site right after the PRO meeting, I've been to my share of buying group meetings over the years, but not one where it started with a merger of two members.
Then on the last day of the meeting, Tweeter, PRO's largest member, got into the act. The chain reported its financials and said it was considering a possible Chapter 11 filing.
During the meeting there was also plenty of other talk about the state of CE retailing, in particular the challenges facing Circuit City, CompUSA and RadioShack.
Jay Vandenbree, president of Sony Consumer Sales, commented at PRO about the changing retail landscape that "there is always churn. What is [different] now is that it is happening to some of the stalwarts of our business."
The problems these chains and others face today are due in large part to flat-panel TV margins that fell dramatically since last fall and the scramble to come up with new strategies to boost profits.
On top of all this, Wal-Mart said last week it will enhance its CE departments with improved assortments, more name brands, more signage and in-store support (see p. 1). That's not good news for any CE retailers, least of all the ones facing immediate challenges.
All of this inspires questions and anxiety. What will happen to the “stalwarts?” What will happen to rest of the retailers who seem to be doing okay now?
With the housing market mixed and energy prices spiking, it could mean for a rocky road for the rest of this year.
If you are a frequent visitor to TWICE.com, and we really hope you are, you might have noticed a new feature that began appearing last week called “TWICE Spotlight,” our new video page. Initially the videos will feature one-on-one interviews with leading industry executives. Our thanks go to our first interviewees: PRO Group members Steve Caldero, Bjorn Dybdahl, Al Walters and executive director Dave Workman. And this week Imation president/CEO Frank Russomanno went over with managing editor John Laposky his company's plans in the wake of Imation's recent acquisitions of TDK and Memcorp.
Video on the site will also continue to feature links to videos that we have done in the past couple of years on cable TV during International CES via HotIce.com and Steve Nelson. We hope you enjoy this new feature and we look forward to your comments and suggestions.