Lee Schoenfeld has been in and around the TV business for most of the last 35 years.
Starting as buyer for the old Sound Of Music chain in the early 80s, he established himself as the chief merchant for the up-and-coming Best Buy chain once they bought Sound Of Music, and stayed there until 1997.
Following a stint as a consultant for a few years, Schoenfeld found himself in China, partnering with a TV manufacturing factory with newly acquired licenses. The partnership eventually began selling Advent and Jensen brand TVs into the U.S. market, as well as marketing one of the first HDTVs, a Sanyo brand high-definition tube model.
When the flat-panel era arrived the TV business model was evolving. Chains like Best Buy and Brandsmart adopted house brands to serve the lower and middle tiers of the market. By 2007, Schoenfeld decided to move on from the TV space.
Schoenfeld kept an eye on the business from afar and maintained his Chinese manufacturing ties and before he knew it, a la “The Godfather 3,” just when he thought he was out, they sucked him back in.
Enter Bolva TV, born from a partnership of Schoenfeld and his long-associated manufacturing partner in China. The company is unique in its approach to the market, with a “highly curated” line of 10 SKUs of 4K UHD-only flat panel TVs. The line will be “aggressively priced,” said Schoenfeld, with some step-up models.
Bolva will also sell directly to retailers – it already has a deal with the NATM Buying Group – from its own distribution centers for one-day turnaround and delivery. The company will also embrace the rent-to-own channel.
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TWICE talked to Schoenfeld on the eve of CES. Here is what he had to say:
TWICE: Knowing what you’ve learned in almost 35 years in the industry, what attracted you back to the TV business?
Lee Schoenfeld: To be honest, it wasn’t so attractive. At first, I couldn’t see a clear path that would be attractive to retailers. There is no shortage of TV brands. It was only after the factory and I agreed on a simple and focused strategy: one that I believed retailers would embrace, that we moved forward. At the end of the day, however, I have always loved the TV business, even while bad-mouthing its fundamentals to anyone who would listen!
TWICE: What is the biggest challenge to TV merchants in today’s business climate?
To always have the right product – at the right price – in stock. The low margins in the TV category mandate a careful and concise inventory management process, which in my view is not always carefully considered by TV vendors.
TWICE: Can you sum up Bolva’s mission statement in two sentences?
To become a ‘Go To’ TV vendor of choice for retailers in North America. We intend to do this slowly, carefully, and without pretensions that we will become the next “Sony, Samsung etc.”
TWICE: What is your bottom-line sales pitch to retailers?
The bottom line is that we sell 4K TV at the lowest price. Price is the cost of entry into any retailer, period. Explaining how we do this, and what else we provide is the main pitch.
We are a prime manufacturer of 4K TV. There’s no company in the middle, as there is with many of our competitors. By curating our assortment to select screen sizes of 4K only, we do not have to subsidize our pricing to make up for losses on 720p and 1080p product.
Having the inventory in the USA with a dynamic market pricing mechanism that recognizes the necessary market price at the time of shipment, keeps us ‘market right’. We have a world-class U.S.-based customer call center and service center. We openly share with our retailers all pertinent TV industry information, good and bad, directly from the source of panel procurement and TV manufacturing. Some have told me that we may be the only company doing so. We ship on time!
Importantly, I consider us to be retail-centric. Our strategy and business plan was created by a retailer – for retailers.
TWICE: Where do you see Bolva in 5 years?
Where we wind-up in five years is impossible to predict. Bolva will grow organically – perhaps slowly, perhaps quickly. I believe we will be well-respected by TV merchants, no matter the pace of growth. And, I believe we will grow!