One-On-One At Marco Island

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No, basketball is not being played here, at a wonderful Florida locale this week, which (almost) makes you forget that Wall Street’s leading financial institutions are imploding much of our 401ks and savings.

Charlie Bowlus, CEO/founder of ECRM and Adam Levin, CEO of Levin Consulting.

The Key Connection’s “Keys U See” large print keyboard and mouse.

The Quest Group’s Bill Boyer (left) and Bob St. John with part of its WireLogic line.

Tricia Ricottilli and Larry Meador of Corel showing its line.

The Marriott Marco Island Resort, the headquarters of the ECRM/Levin Consulting Electronics & Photo Retail Summit.

Retailers and manufacturers are going one-on-one at a rather unique event called ECRM/Levin Consulting Electronics & Photo Retail Summit here at Marriott’s Marco Island Florida Resort & Spa.

From Monday to Wednesday, 62 consumer electronics and photo industry-related vendors are meeting with 54 retailers (around 200 individual attendees) and are having one-on-one meetings to see if they can do business together.

Adam Levin, CEO of Levin Consulting, invited yours truly into this assembly line of 20-minute meetings on Monday, what reminded one first-time supplier of “speed dating.”

At the end of my day of 18 20-minute supplier meetings I was able to guess when the show handlers would knock on the doors of the meeting rooms and say, “Three minutes left!” or “Time’s up!”

In the blur of meetings one thing was obvious at this show: Both retailers and suppliers are looking for profitable growth opportunities from unexpected sources. Retailers that are not traditionally the first you think of when it comes to CE products (7-Eleven, Drugstore.com, Overstock.com, Stop & Shop and Walgreen’s, among others) are here looking to electronics and photo-related products as profit opportunities.

Yes profits … a quaint term in consumer electronics, yet for all the moaning and groaning about “profitless prosperity” and other clichés over the years, there are profits in CE, and the photo market, when it comes to accessories and related categories.

During my meetings yesterday I thought of the founder of Sima Products, Irwin Diamond, who once said to me at an International CES, probably in the late 1980s when his photo accessories company entered the CE accessories business, “Do electronics retailers know how to sell accessories? Photo retailers live on it.”

Irwin, they have learned, but it has taken a while.

Many of the suppliers here sell accessories, as well as software, cameras and the like. Suppliers are looking for alternative retail channels where their profits won’t be squeezed or disappear due to demands from major national chains. Non-traditional retailers here are looking to electronics and photo product lines for growth. The traditional CE retailers at this show are also looking for new, different and unique lines for better margins and sales growth.

And when asked if their products were manufactured in China, whether they were CE or photo suppliers, to a company all said costs have risen this year, not only due to higher energy costs and the devalued dollar, but from higher labor costs in China. Some took one for the team and didn’t raise prices. Others tried to raise prices on new products and average the increases out across their lines. Just about everyone said costs rose 10 percent to 30 percent depending upon the product category.

More on all of this will come later this week online and in our Sept. 29 print edition. Give me a day to get back to NYC, check email and sort out all the information between product details and merchandising and market info I found out here.

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