Reflections On Buying Group Meetings

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After a hectic two weeks I haven’t had a real chance to reflect upon something that has never occurred in my years covering the consumer electronics industry: two buying groups held their meetings in the same city and the same exact dates.

The only other comparable occasion was in the early ’90s when the NATM Buying Group held its meeting in South Florida on the same dates the old International Tape/Disc Association (ITA) held its meeting a few miles away. I recall that because Gary Shapiro, who was just named the head of what would become the Consumer Electronics Association, stayed at the ITA hotel and we drove back and forth together to attend both events.

Of course, NATM and ITA were not rivals. BrandSource and Nationwide Marketing Group are. Both held their late winter meetings in Orlando from Feb. 26-28.

Usually in February and August, CE, majap and furniture suppliers — and the media — spend a few days with one group, go home, and then the next week spend a few days with the other. Senior editor Alan Wolf and I, who attend most of these shows, love them because you get to see products close up, but more importantly you get to spend quality time with the independent retailers that are still the lifeblood of the industry.

The two hotels were a couple of miles from each other, so if you were a member of the media covering both shows, like Alan and I did, or were an exhibitor at both shows, as were many, one of the quips of the week was, “The people making the most money at both conventions are the cab drivers.” And they were busy.

For an exhibitor or member of the press the advantage of this scheduling accident was that you could compare the groups side-by-side and get a real feel for the industry, aside from the new promotions, services and educational programs provided by each group.

When you get that many electronic/appliance retailers together in one town at the same time, the gossip will flow. This time it turned out to be news concerning unilateral pricing programs and/or new channel-management plans from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and LG.

The overall tone of both shows was one of cautious optimism. The economy is fragile, but improving, and higher prices for major appliance, help on keeping CE margins from at least eroding further, and help from other categories like bedding and furniture, should help these independents.

A favorite story from my trip came from an exhibitor of both shows when asked if he liked having them held in the same city on the same dates. He said, “It will never happen because of the competition involved, but what would be better would be if they held their shows at the same hotel for around a week? We do one-setup. They put signage up for the first convention, spend four days with them, then put up the signage for the next group and do four days with them.”

I looked at the exhibitor and said, “You have a better chance of the Republicans and the Democrats doing something good for the country in Washington D.C.”

Speaking of Washington, Nationwide will be in the D.C. area Aug. 19-22, while BrandSource will meet again Aug. 26-30 in Las Vegas.

As usual Alan will be covering one of those conventions and I will cover the other in August. Barring bad weather (the East Coast hurricane stopped my trip to Brand Source last August) TWICE wouldn’t want to miss either meeting.

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