NATM Launches B-to-B Website For Group Members, Suppliers

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NEW YORK -- The NATM Buying Corporation rolled out its first business-to-business website during its membership meeting in Atlanta earlier this month.

Passwords and training concerning the site --, which has been developed by Eric Agren, dealer programs director for JG Sullivan -- were given at the group's meeting.

The site provides NATM members with such features as direct contact to the NATM office, suppliers and fellow members; NATM news and updates; industry news; a supplier information center; the NATM forecasting tool; industry-related Internet resources; and supplier backroom access.

The site enables suppliers to post documents and URLs to NATM members, view all NATM member forecasts, create reports and link directly to suppliers' systems.

During a presentation at NATM offices, here, executive director Bill Trawick and operations manager Ernest Olson said the creation of the site is designed "to improve and enhance communications with our membership and this office ... as well as with our manufacturers."

Olson said that a major goal was to "create a forecasting tool" and "standardize the way we do forecasting in our group and our suppliers."

As far as NATM knows, the forecasting aspect of, is the first XML-based forecasting tool in the electronics and appliance industry. "We hope that we set an industry standard that everyone can follow," Agren said. Many other forecasting tools in the marketplace are EDI-based systems, he added.

Agren noted that the forecasting tool of the NATM site is "multi-branded" because suppliers have a variety of forecasting systems. "It is built to interface with all of them. At this point Thomson, Toshiba and Whirlpool are the initial vendor participants with a full presence in the site, with GE also having a role."

The forecasts, which are required by NATM for group buys, are by SKU and show what the forecasts are plus the members' actual sales. Specification pages on each SKU are also available. Olson noted that e-mails could be sent by the NATM office, members and suppliers to everyone or to specific participants concerning any subject.

"Members don't have to forecast everything they buy, just for our programs," Trawick said. "But if they want to do it for all product lines they carry, they can." Forty percent of all NATM member retail volume come from group programs, he said.

The major advantage, said Olson, is "everyone is looking at the same numbers."

Trawick added that the site "shows that we are more than just 12 retailers. It brings us together as a group. Members can download rebate forms [from supplier sites] and get the appropriate specs for built-in appliances," among other uses.

Two suppliers were present at the press preview last week, Dave Cosgrove, Whirlpool's director of e-commerce/B to B for North America, and Jeff Charleson, GE Appliances' retail buying groups manager. Both commented on how their respective companies are using the site.

Cosgrove said that when NATM members use the site and link to the Whirlpool site they can custom-design their own brochures that can be distributed on the sales floor, "or, if you build an e-mail customer base, can be e-mailed to their homes."

Ad planners can also be developed highlighting product features of individual products. Trawick commented, "In other words, we will be your spec book."

Charleson of GE said its link with the NATM site is "has a complementary look" to the NATM site and is "devoted to the GE/NATM relationship," highlighting NATM pricing, consumer promotions and special models, among other features.


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