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Nationwide Presses Its Market Share Advantage

More than 3,000 dealers from 750 businesses, along with over 200 vendors, convened at the Nationwide Marketing Group’s bi-annual PrimeTime convention in Las Vegas last month to evaluate and update marketing initiatives, examine new product opportunities and explore the impact of new technologies.

Nationwide executives painted a positive picture with member business up 19 percent in CE, with average selling prices (ASPs) up $360 over the total retail average. Driving that is a strong emphasis on 4K Ultra HD, the group’s management team said.

On the appliance side, concerns were expressed about both the growth of retail stores and Amazon, but the group emphasized the ability of the independent to be more agile across a wider range of models and brands with delivery and installation among the arrows in their quiver. According to Nationwide senior leadership team member Jeff Knock, “Members’ business is up significantly when a Sears closes.”

However, not waiting to simply wait for the business to come to their members, Nationwide is working on many fronts. With the claim of a 75 percent close rate once a potential customer comes into a store, driving traffic is key. Capitalizing on the retail turmoil, the group’s earlier “Prepare for Share” campaign and its slogan of “Bigger isn’t Better … Better is Better” is morphing into “Take Your Share,” backed by a variety of marketing components, including broadcast and socialmedia ads and promotions.

Part of the overall effort to drive traffic against e-commerce and online advertising will be a special effort to expand awareness for the independent outlets among millennials. A strong emphasis on point-of-sale analytics will also be key to this. Video, produced by Nationwide’s in-house production unit as well as from vendors, will be a big push. As one Nationwide exec told us: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million pictures.”

Despite rumbles in the news over economic issues, tax reform and a potential battle of spending limits and the budget, all categories were up through the summer, and there was a positive outlook for back-to-school and into the holidays. Driving that will be a continued push behind 4K Ultra HD, with QLED and OLED having strong presences at the vendor booths.

With Ultra HD as a hot button to lift members out of commodity-priced TVs, connected kitchen was virtually everywhere on the appliance side. The most visible evidence of that was the presence of both manufacturer-specific smart-home systems, such as LG’s ThinQ, and more generic connected architectures with Amazon Alexa and Google Home as the central control point. Both devices were highly visible in all the majors’ displays.

Bridging product and marketing, PrimeTime was the coming out party for the partnership between Nationwide and Nest Labs, first announced in March. With extensive use of voice control for more than just music, answering search questions and such, the Nest and Works with Nest initiative was highlighted in a Connected Home display with this arrangement bringing “an advanced and consumer favored lineup … for dealers who are finding success in this growing category,” said senior leadership member Tom Hickman.

Given the need for advanced training to wrangle the wide variety of brands and products that must be taught to work together, it was clear that this, too, would be a high-focus area in the year ahead. Specialty dealers in the group’s Home Technology Specialists Nationwide (HTSN) chapter are more likely to be CEDIA members and already versed in the intricacies; others will take advantage of training to catch up.

The takeaway from many of the demonstrations, such as those by GE/Haier, was not only single point-to-point commands, but the ability to create a multi-tiered task such as a Nest smoke alarm “talking” to a range’s cooktop to turn off the burners and turn on a range hood. Given likelihood of some “babelization,” more than one supplier mentioned IFTTT as a potential bridge between disparate brands and products. Monitoring of device activity was also mentioned as a potential revenue product, particularly with the projected growth of multi-device sales.

At the end of the day, with programs in place to train against new competition — to both capitalize on new opportunities created by changes in the retail picture while defending against big-box chains that are also primed to take advantage of others’ distress — and an emphasis on social, online and video outreach, Nationwide’s event proved that it’s looking to create some heat in the market beyond the 100-plus temperatures in Las Vegas.

On the product side, higher-end Ultra HD TV, accessories that add additional margin to the ticket for a video sale, higher-line appliances and “connected everything” point to a good fall season and an optimistic outlook for the fourth quarter.

Of course, as with every retail initiative, the key remains the same basics as always: Bring traffic into the store and provide the products, promotions, financing programs, inventory, on-the-floor salesmanship, installation and follow-up.

Putting it all together was an obvious, but oft-ignored mantra. The constant theme throughout the show’s 63 sessions and in conversations with Nationwide execs was “Sell on price, crush on service.”