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Optimism Among The Desert Palms

If my memory is correct, when traders traveled the deserts of Asia and Africa centuries ago, a grove of palms was the trademark for an oasis where they could get water, food, rest and maybe talk with their fellow travelers about business. (Or maybe that was from some bygone Hollywood movie.)

Anyway, the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, here, the site of the first reception and dinner of this year’s Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) meeting, was appropriately set outdoors at its Palm Grove. I say appropriate because the mood was decidedly upbeat vs. last May’s event.Of course, last May PRO and its suppliers met at the Ritz Carlton in Lake Las Vegas, Nev., a resort that soon closed after the convention left town. The fate of the location was kind of a metaphor about the state of the economy and the state of the CE industry last spring.

The off-the-record comments during cocktails and dinner last evening were decidedly different. While many attendees, both retailers and suppliers, said business is “choppy” — up two or three weeks and down the next — business is on the upswing.

MAP programs from suppliers and shortages of flat-panel TVs, among other categories, have stabilized prices. One TV exec said that dollars are flat in TVs from last year at this time, which in this business is a price increase. And home audio … remember home audio? That critical part of specialty retailers business has grown in the first quarter. But, just so they won’t jinx it, no one will talk about the details as of yet.

PRO Group, as executive director Dave Workman told TWICE and later his dinner guests, is strong due to its “diversity” of members. He predicted growth because business is a bit better. There has been announced expansion at some of his members businesses — Sixth Avenue Electronics, Paul’s TV among others — and soon-to-be-announced expansion by other members. More about that soon.

As Gary Yacoubian, now on the supplier side with Monster Cable but a longtime PRO member with MyerEmco, put it, “This is the most upbeat PRO Group meeting in three years.” If that translates into profitable growth for PRO members, that is good news for the industry as a whole.