Oswego, NY. - Members of the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) approved the purchase of the car stereo trade organization by InstallerNet, which will convert MERA to a for-profit wholly owned subsidiary of the company.
MERA executive director Barry Vogel said a final contract remains to be signed but that the deal is final, barring "catastrophic" circumstances.
One of the first orders of business will be to plan KnowledgeFest 2010. The annual MERA-sponsored trade seminar had been cancelled in 2009.
Tony Frangiosa, InstallerNet president and CEO, said the company is sending out requests for proposals to tradeshow firms such as Bobit and the Acumen Group to manage KnowledgeFest 2010. Acumen, which ran the 12 Volt Summit last summer, confirmed it is bidding on the event.
Frangiosa said: "We are committed to putting on a show next year." A location and date has not been set although Kansas City, where MERA had placed a deposit for the cancelled 2009 KnowledgeFest, is one of the locales under consideration. "We're going to have a much larger attendance ... and we're getting a lot more manufacturers involved at a different level," said the InstallerNet CEO.
Frangiosa claimed suppliers are expressing renewed interest in MERA, which will now include thousands of additional retail members because 2,000 InstallerNet retailers will be given initial membership.
Some suppliers are considering offering MERA members exclusive products or brands, Frangiosa said.
InstallerNet coordinates more than 3,000 installing retailers (approximately 2,000 of which sell car audio). It sells installation gift cards that the installer network honors. Retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, and Crutchfield, which don't provide on-site installation, may sell these gift cards alongside car stereo products. The customer buys the card and calls an 800 number to be directed to the local InstallerNet retailer who performs the installation for a set price.
Prior to the takeover, MERA membership was down to 135 active retail members, from more than 600 members several years ago.
InstallerNet is also able to gather research that it will disseminate to MERA members. "About a million and half times each month, customers, installers or salespeople are logging into our database and telling the year, make and model of their car [because] they have to schedule an [installation] appointment. Installers are trying to find the wires to do that work. So there's a lot of information we have that we can put in a market research tool and put that back into the industry. This will be delivered to MERA members," said Frangiosa.
Another key change is that MERA will be open to all 12 volt retailers, not just the specialists.
InstallerNet said it has initiated discussions with Best Buy regarding possible membership. InstallerNet develops 12-volt kiosks for Best Buy and provides a fit guide for the Best Buy Web site.
InstallerNet has also launched a "buildyourmera.com Web site expected to become active the first week in September, where industry members may give feedback on what they expect from MERA.