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Nationwide Show Draws Record Crowds

Las Vegas — The Nationwide Marketing Group adroitly rebounded from the loss of its planned Superdome venue in New Orleans to stage the buying organization’s largest ever PrimeTime! meeting and convention this week at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, here.

Under the theme “Fast Forward: 2006 and Beyond,” the $10 billion independent dealer confederation kicked off its biannual confab last night with member attendance at an all-time high and a record roster of some 350 exhibitors in tow, including 40 first-time vendors.

President/director Ed Kelly began the proceedings by announcing that Nationwide grew nearly twice as fast as the overall industry last year, and that the economy and the group’s vendor and customer bases are perfectly aligned to propel members to new sales and profit highs.

“The economy is strong, the consumer wants your goods, and manufacturers are bringing out new products,” he said. “That’s healthy, and just as we predicted four years ago that business would be great, we now see nothing but straight-up growth.”

Kelly pointed to consumer electronics as a key propellant in that expansion. “Consumers electronics has exploded,” he said. “We told you four years ago to get into this category. Now we can’t even get enough product, and electronics is poised to take off like a rocket this year.”

Other harbingers of increased prosperity: the lowest rate of business failures in history last year, and storefront expansions by independent dealers. “For the first time in years we’re hearing, ‘We’re opening stores,’” Kelly said. “It has become profitable [to be an independent dealer], and kids are entering the family business.”

Executive VP Robert Weisner later lauded the group’s dealers for their exceptional performance, and cited Nationwide’s “great partnerships with vendors, who have been wonderful working programs.” He also exhorted members to look beyond their traditional core categories. “We will continue to search out products to help your stores grow,” he told attendees. “Sure there are new electronics products and high-end appliances, but there are also other categories our merchandising guys think you should look at.”

The confab continues through Wednesday with an expansive buying show; keynote addresses by Jim Campbell, president/CEO of GE Consumer & Industrial, and Max Wasinger, sales and marketing senior VP for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America; and Nationwide’s series of PrimeTime! University retail seminars.