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 stations.
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.