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NATM Dealers Duke It Out For Share

Dallas – The NATM
Buying Corp.’s 11 regional dealers are growing market share in video and major
appliances despite the weak economy and fierce pricing pressure from national
and online accounts.

Members of the $6.7
billion buying group, which is holding its annual conference here this week,
say they are contending with macro and marketplace headwinds by opening new
stores, entering new categories, tightly managing inventory, matching Internet
pricing when needed, and learning to live with lower margins.

As a result, said
NATM president and executive director Bill Trawick, the group is still outpacing
the industry in TV and majap unit volume despite comparable store declines in
both categories.

“Business is not
robust but we’re gaining share in the markets we play in and we’re out there aggressively
growing our business,” he said.

Indeed, at least
four members — Boscov’s, Conn’s, Electronic Express and Video Only — said
they are opening, re-opening or expanding stores, while others are entering new
businesses like mattresses, lawn and garden or, for Abt Electronics, electric
generators and fitness gear.

“We’re always
looking for ways to drive traffic and generate new business,” co-president
Billy Abt told TWICE.

To help dealers
tap into new opportunities, NATM has expanded its on-site vendor fair, a new
feature of the conference, to 39 exhibitors including Klipsch, Daewoo and Warrantech,
as well as CE distributors and suppliers of everything from fireplaces to DJ

Trawick said
dealers are also getting help from new MAP policies and stricter enforcement by
some CE and appliance manufacturers. But in an impassioned state of NATM
address to attendees last night, he implored vendors to do more.

 “You built relationships with us, and your
investments in companies like P.C. Richard and Conn’s kept them competitive,”
he noted. “You helped them get where they are and we helped your company get
where it is. But how many relationships can be built with national accounts? If
they’re not happy with a category, they get out of it. We put our lives into
selling electronics and appliances and if we’re not successful we close doors.

“Manufacturers are
also fighting for their lives. National accounts and Internet companies are so
big it’s hard to say no to them, but based on their recent financials the
nationals are not winning, they’re struggling, and so are you. We need you to
provide fair margins so we can exist, and we need you to work with us to grow
your business profitably. You must not let them dictate how you run your
business because if we continue in the direction we’re now heading this
industry is doomed.”

On a personal
note, Trawick indicated that he’s setting aside any retirement plans for “a few
more years” until the business climate improves.