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A Year’s Worth Of News In A Week

In the May 5 issue of TWICE, I wrote a column called “Possibly A Memorable Week.”

Well, the week of May 12 is definitely memorable — and it isn’t even over yet — because it has generated seemingly a year’s worth of news so far.

Since we have been reviewing the TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers Report, to be published on Monday, all week, along with me going to the ProSource convention (they seem to be very focused on selling solutions and not just products), I haven’t had a chance to comment on anything.

So, to make up for lost time, here goes:

In the pure “rumor mill” is the Apple/Beats deal, a story without confirmation that has circulated around the world several times without confirmation, as of this writing.

There was also a report out of Nikkei in Japan that Pioneer Electronics is looking to get out of the A/V business.

The Apple/Beats rumors have been hyped for about a week. If it does happen, and scuttlebutt is that it will be officially announced next week, one ProSource member told me, “It won’t be good for my business. Apple will now be in the Apple accessories business,” a multibillion-dollar market the mega-company has left to outside suppliers and retailers to sell.

The report from Japan, if true, is not surprising. It is sad for a once-giant in the CE field, but not surprising. A decade ago, Pioneer took a gigantic gamble and spent tons of money on plasma TV plants. While its plasmas were lauded as gorgeous, especially the Kuro, they were too expensive to compete in the cutthroat TV business.

Panasonic hooked its TV future on plasma TV but dropped the format. But it is still in the TV business and introduced its 2014 with a little bombshell for independents that relied on the brand after Pioneer exited TVs; a majority of Panasonic’s TV sales will be through Best Buy — not with a branded department, like Sony or Samsung, but in the chain’s Magnolia departments.

Speaking of Sony, which reported another annual loss this week, it is trying to cultivate the specialty side with a rep network for that distribution.

Regarding the continuing problems at Sony, a couple of people at this week’s ProSource meeting said its product introductions in the past year or so have been very good. But the problem, in their view, is that CEO Kaz Hirai has to break down the last few “silos” and have all managers, engineers and content people really deal with each other before it is too late.

And then we have Walmart and its fiscal Q1 financial, which showed the retail headwinds that are hitting even the world’s largest retailer. But the retailer wants to reinvest in the CE business once again and will revamp its departments. Stay tuned to TWICE for more details.

And, finally, ironically enough during a week when TWICE was editing our Top 100 CE Retailers Report and yours truly was on a plane to a buying group meeting, I found out that Bill Trawick of NATM decided to retire.

The first time I had the pleasure of talking with him, somewhat on the record, when I was on the old HFD staff, and we were doing a precursor to the TWICE Top 100, the Focus 200. I finally got him on the phone to talk about his employer’s annual sales for the report. He was working for P.C. Richard & Son at the time.

The straight-shooter who he is, Bill gave me a good estimate of what P.C. was doing in CE — and then pointedly but politely suggested that we take a good look at the Nobody Beats The Wiz numbers for the past couple of years. We did and he was right, a pattern that has continued to this day.

Bill has forgotten more about the CE and major appliance businesses than many executives in the industry today know. He has been a vital force in this crazy business since 1963. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

Whew. When the Chinese philosopher said, “May you live in interesting times,” he could have been talking about the electronics/appliance industry this week!