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Feisty Workman Discusses Industry At PRO Reception

Denver — PRO Group members, who have seen their largest member Tweeter experience problems this year and the potential merger of members Harvey and MyerEmco fall apart, held a reception with its suppliers at CEDIA Expo here, and its executive director Dave Workman was feisty.

At that event Wednesday night, Workman told members and suppliers that PRO retailers have “set better goals” for themselves this year and their “heads are out of the sand” because “change is all about us.”

He reminded his audience that in a time of change — as the industry is experiencing — PRO’s battle-hardened retailers are up to the challenge. “We sell for profit … which helps us and our suppliers … and we sell solutions, which helps our customers.” Workman noted that PRO has always emphasized top brand names, and he took a shot at a brand known for being sold at mass merchants by saying, “You’ll never see somebody here from Vizio in this room.”

When talking with TWICE later on and asked about “street conditions” for his members at retail, Workman said, “On the street, things are mixed. Some members are doing very well, while others are going up and down. There are no patterns. We have been meeting as a group to come up with best practices for all.”

Workman said that with “Tweeter off the table,” PRO is doing better as a group. When you include Tweeter, its sales volume “is down slightly.”

What his members are trying to do is share information and come up with strategies “to get our message across to customers in a variety of ways … that we provide solutions” when it comes to home entertainment wants and needs.

Workman also said that PRO is sending the message to the industry that it is “not running away from the retail side of the business. Yes, we are unique since we provide custom business and custom installation, but we are still retail stores that get, and want to get a lot more, foot traffic in our stores. We want to get that message out. There is a market for what we do.”

When asked about the fourth quarter and the flat-panel TV business, Workman noted, “Flat panel penetration is around 50 percent. The first 50 percent [of market penetration] is going to be a lot different than the next 50 percent. The last three or four years have been exceptional for us. The next 50 percent will be about the mass market. What I tried to say [in formal remarks earlier] is that mass merchants will gain share in TV, just like in the past.”

What PRO members have to do, and what they discussed in meetings here, is to ‘ride the “Five Horsemen”’ when it comes to flat panel and sell: audio, furniture, installation, accessories and warranties. We are working on all five things.”

And when asked about the old industry bogeyman — Black Friday — Workman was ominous. “Black Friday will be like last year, not pretty. I have my predictions in, but I think a $699 42-inch is a given, maybe even $599.” But he added, “Demand will be OK.”