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Brand Source, MARTA Form Alliance; Workman Replaces Mann At MARTA

Long Beach, Calif. — Brand Source and MARTA, two leading electronics/appliance buying groups, have forged a new strategic alliance.

Effective today, Brand Source and the MARTA Cooperative of America have “come together to create the industry’s strongest group,” announced Bob Lawrence, executive director of Brand Source. Together the two organizations represent over 1,500 member dealers and control about $5 billion in sales.

Both groups share a similar culture as member-owned, not-for-profit organizations, and have similar member profiles, Lawrence said.

The move represents another wave of consolidation among the nation’s independent buying groups, which have been absorbing rival organizations and unaffiliated dealers in a drive to realize greater efficiencies and buying clout.

Going forward, MARTA’s 93 members, under the leadership of retail veteran David Workman, will have full access to Brand Source’s numerous services and backroom functions, including merchandising programs, cross-dock delivery options and Expert Finance arrangements, Lawrence said. The groups will also leverage their combined purchasing power, which is second only to the 2,500-member Nationwide Marketing Group, which puts its annual sales volume at $9 billion.

The 12-member NATM Buying Corp., with $3 billion in sales, remains the industry’s third-largest CE and majap buying organization, followed by MEGA Group USA with 900 members and $2 billion in sales.

The creation of the alliance follows yesterday’s naming of Workman to the newly created position of president/CEO of MARTA, effective Jan. 15. Workman, the onetime president/CEO of Ultimate Electronics, joins MARTA from Warrantech Consumer Product Services, where he was named president last month.

Workman succeeds executive director Warren Mann, who joined MARTA from NATM almost seven years ago. Mann told TWICE that he enjoyed his association with MARTA’s members and takes pride in the fact that many had their best year ever in 2005. “I hope this works out well for them,” he said.

John Rice, president/CEO of DeSears Appliance & TV, and chairman of the buying group’s board, said that Workman represents “a fundamental change in focus and direction” for MARTA. “He is an experienced, bright and talented executive who not only brings many years of business and retailing experience with him, but a highly strategic vision as well,” Rice said.

“Acquisition costs will always be important to any buying group,” Rice continued, “and we think the strategic alliance with [Brand Source] reinforces that. What will make MARTA different will be our heavy emphasis on merchandising, sales and marketing, and David is the perfect fit for the job.”

Workman said that MARTA will “utilize the strategic alliance to the advantage of its manufacturing partners and retailers, but we will still work independently with vendors to develop unique programs for MARTA members. It is, ultimately, all about footsteps thru the door of our members.”

MARTA will continue to hold its winter conference and buying show Feb. 22-24, 2006 at the Renaissance SeaWorld in Orlando, although the group will consider piggybacking its shows with those of Brand Source beginning in 2007.