NATM Steamrolls On New Store Openings

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Hollywood, Fla. — New store openings and explosive growth in advanced TV sales contributed to a “very, very good year” for the NATM Buying Corp. in 2004, with more of the same expected in 2005.

That was the word from Bill Trawick, executive director of the $3 billion-plus consortium of 12 regional brown-and-white goods dealers, which convened last week at The Westin Diplomat, here, for its annual group meeting.

According to Trawick, the members’ 20 new collective storefronts generated an additional $300 million in revenue over the past 12 months, representing “a large amount of additional volume for manufacturers.”

Also fueling the group’s growth last year was a projected 580 percent spurt in unit sales of rear projection DLP TVs, based on NATM’s March fiscal year; a 180 percent gain in plasma display volume; a 150-percent increase in LCD flat-panel sales; and a 120 percent spike in LCD rear projection units.

In white goods, NATM dealers outpaced the major appliance industry average, with double-digit gains in refrigeration, laundry, cooking and dishwashers.

However, Trawick and individual dealers told TWICE that the DLP party has lately cooled, owing to Sony’s recent price adjustments on its rear-projection LCD sets, which have helped reduce the 42-inch model to a $2,000 price point and lower its 50-inch stable mate to $2,500. Another round of price reductions are expected soon, they said.

As a result, DLP inventory has begun to build, dealers said, and manufacturers have been forced to follow Sony’s lead on pricing.

Trawick said the group would re-evaluate its core video vendor matrix of Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi following the meeting, although it would likely maintain three core programs in order to allow members to spend half of their open-to-buy dollars on outside brands. The group also considered, and rejected, plans to bring in secondary brands from Asia due to long-term service concerns.

Like DLP, majap sales also took it on the chin during the first few weeks of the New Year, due in this case to record December sell-through in advance of steep, industry-wide price hikes stemming from high fuel and steel costs, Trawick said. But NATM’s white goods business has since rebounded, with February and March proving to be “extremely strong,” he said.

Nevertheless, thanks to HDTV, CE continues to grow faster than appliances for the group, giving it a 55 percent to 45 percent split of brown to white goods.

Looking ahead, Trawick expects the 25 additional storefronts planned for this year to propel group volume still further, so that by year’s end NATM will have made up the business lost by the departures of H.H. Gregg and American TV & Appliance without significantly expanding its ranks.

Trawick also announced that the group will move its annual meeting from March to September beginning in 2007 in order to avoid scheduling conflicts during the increasingly busy month.

Highlights of the meeting included a retail road trip to local NATM member BrandsMart U.S.A.’s 80,000-square-foot Palmetto store in Dade County, which is being retrofitted with innovations that were developed for the company’s recently opened Atlanta store.

The group will return to the Westin next year for its final March event.


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