San Antonio - MEGA Group USA, the 1,500-member furniture, majaps, CE and mattress buying group, placed a record number of sales orders at its just-concluded convention here at the Grand Hyatt this month.
According to MEGA president and chief majap merchant Rick Bellows, orders were up double-digits over last year's spring show, and were ahead 30 percent over the group's last convention in San Antonio in August 2009.
"The show exceeded our expectations," he told TWICE, and reflected the generally upbeat mood of MEGA's membership. "The first couple of months of the year were tough, but it's no different than it's always been. There is business out there - you just have to work a little harder and smarter to get it."
Orders also increased in advance of next month's planned price hikes by major white-goods manufacturers. "The timing was right to take advantage of buys and opportunities out there," Bellows noted.
Even still, majap shipments to MEGA were up more than 10 percent in January and February, compared with a 5 percent decline industrywide, he said.
Attendance at the event was "right where we budgeted," Belows added, with some 1,000 dealer attendees and 400 vendor personnel on hand, representing 400 retail companies and 85 exhibitors. The latter included LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba on the CE side, and Electrolux, GE, Samsung and Whirlpool in appliances.
A major initiative introduced at the show was WebFronts Premium, an affordable e-commerce program that represents a step up from the buying group's basic offering, first introduced in 2007. The new two-tier platform is highly customized and features virtually unlimited product catalog capabilities, advanced merchandising, price tools, unlimited shopping cart, advanced search engine optimization techniques, automated rebate center and product-comparison capabilities.
Belows said WebFronts Premium will give members a competitive advantage by providing access to 10,000 SKUs and uniquely accommodating each of the group's four main product categories within a shopping cart.
"We had to have an e-commerce site as good as any in the country, and spent a lot of time developing a premier web presence that will take a back seat to no one," he said. More than two-thirds of MEGA's dealers presently participate in the group's website programs.
Also announced at the show was the appointment of 15-year majap industry veteran Missy Hodges as appliance merchandise manager, with additional responsibility for the group's circular program.
MEGA was created in 1982 as a chapter in the now-defunct Key America buying group, and went independent in 1997 with just 75 dealers. Today the Memphis-based organization encompasses some 2,500 storefronts and accounts for more than $2.5 billion in sales, with about half in furniture, 30 percent in appliances, and 10 percent each in CE and bedding.
Despite its size MEGA still operates like a smaller group, with constant communication between dealers and headquarters staff. "We're always listening and responding to our members needs," Bellows said. With every program and every service we ask ourselves, â€˜How does the dealer win? Will it drive traffic or add margin?' If not, we move on to something else."
MEGA and its members will next convene for the group's fall show Aug. 25-28 in Nashville. While San Antonio is "a terrific destination with great facilities, Nashville is the heart and soul of the group," Bellows said.