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Nationwide Seeks New CE Opportunities While Furniture Fuels Growth

LAS VEGAS – The Nationwide Marketing Group is adding new fuel to its CE business, which continues to outpace the industry, and to its highly profitable furniture division, which executives said is on fire.

Electronics senior VP Tom Hickman said Nationwide’s CE sales were up last year in both unit and dollar volume compared with a flat industry, due partly to the additions of electronics-focused dealers like MicroCenter, Paul’s TV and Vann’s. CE comprises 25 percent of group volume.

Members were also buoyed by vendors’ unilateral pricing policies (UPPs), which helped them achieve average selling prices that also exceeded the industry norm.

“The CE industry is not known for its discipline, and UPP has been helping us,” Hickman said at the group’s PrimeTime show here last week.

This year, Nationwide is “thrilled” by the potential that Ultra HD and OLED TV displays hold, and will encourage dealers to target early adaptors and present the new technologies in lifestyle vignettes rather than on TV walls, Nationwide president/COO Dave Bilas noted.

Hickman also expects distributed audio to become “a huge category” for member dealers, and is looking to tap into alternative categories like home automation, security, digital health, wearables and unlocked cellphones. Some of those categories will be merchandised together in a linear display that will be offered to dealers as “a full-service solution,” Bilas said.

In addition, co-CEO Robert Weisner hinted at “a new world-class system,” set to launch this summer, which will help smaller dealers compete in the CE business by providing more brands and better margins. While executives remained mum on specifics, the recent addition of former Expert Warehouse head Dean Sottile as distribution and logistics senior VP suggests that the initiative will involve a new fulfillment approach.

Hickman is also focused on leveraging the group’s custom install chops by further developing its Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN) division. Plans include selecting a successor to former executive director Jeannette Howe, implementing new distribution and brand strategies over the next 18 months and making SEN “the premier CI group in the U.S.”

But any gains in CE and majaps are still eclipsed by furniture, which represents 25 percent of sales but more than 50 percent of the volume growth as more dealers add bedding and motion furniture, and more furniture dealers join the group.

To further spur sales and lower the barrier to entry, Nationwide Furniture president Bill Bazemore has built on the division’s “phenomenal success” in private label to create an exclusive, turnkey “I America” gallery of bedding, upholstery and case goods.

Dealers can pick and choose from the assortment, beginning perhaps with bedding and then adding motion upholstery, and the line is supported by a full marketing and advertising program.

“With proprietary product, the dealer can differentiate itself in the marketplace,” Bazemore said.

Elsewhere, Bazemore is especially keen on the outdoor category, including lawn and patio furniture, lawn care, and grills and outdoor appliances. “The category is exploding,” he said. “Consumers are spending a lot of money on outdoor, building complete kitchens and living spaces, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to expand.”