Nashville, Tenn. - MEGA Group USA, the national buying group for independent appliance, CE, furniture and bedding retailers, kicked off its biannual National Convention here last week with a keynote address by Whirlpool North American sales VP Sam Abdelnour.
His two-hour presentation included a state-of-the-industry update and insights into favorable appliance market trends. "Over the past four years independent retailers have stabilized, representing 20 percent of the appliance industry, while the big-box retailers have declined," he reported, while independent retailers comprise 27 percent of Whirlpool's overall business, half of which is with the KitchenAid brand and one-third is with Maytag.
He said a common misconception is that consumers are spending less to replace broken appliances. "We conduct 2,000 consumer exit interviews per quarter. This research shows that consumers have every intention to upgrade their appliances with innovation, benefits and styling.
"However," he continued, "when they enter a big-box retailer and see a â€˜sea of white,' and left to their own devices, they tend to settle at the point of purchase. This is where independent retailers can succeed, as you are fully invested in what you do every day. Leverage what you do well. Your knowledge of the product and customer focus will give you the advantage."
Abdelnour's address also included information on new products, best-selling combinations, purchase triggers, and advertising and promotion tips.
The show, which ran Aug. 25-28 at the Downtown Renaissance, was themed "Stay Connected, Be Connected," to underscore the group's focus on further educating dealers on web marketing.
"Online and social-media marketing is critical to [our dealers'] success," said MEGA president Rick Bellows. "As a leader in web marketing, it is our responsibility and passion to continue to bring our dealers the knowledge they need to compete online."
In his keynote, Abdelnour also encouraged members to have an aggressive online presence, noting that 60 percent of consumers research appliance products online before visiting a store. There are more subscribers to consumer online reports than ever before, he told attendees, and consumers trust those reports in the appliance category.
Abdelnour urged members to adopt social media strategies including Facebook, Twitter and blogging. "We are the last generation to read newspapers," he observed. "Whirpool believes that there is nothing more critical that having an avenue online through websites and social media for consumers to find you."
To that end, MEGA extended its WebFronts Premium Plus e-commerce program to the mattress and bedding categories, effective with the show, and conducted informational sessions on social media that included tips, techniques and best practices, along with a special address by social-media expert and featured speaker Jeff Korhan.
MEGA says it is the fastest-growing national home-furnishings buying organization in the country, with 1,600 retail members operating 2,500 storefronts in the furniture, electronic, appliance and mattress sectors.