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PRO Group Partners With eBay

LAS VEGAS – The Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO
Group) is partnering with eBay to further its members’ e-commerce strategies.

The alliance, announced last night at the buying group’s
annual International CES soiree at Bally’s, will lead to a storefront presence
on eBay that will provide greater traffic for PRO’s specialty A/V dealers and
improved visibility for their value-added services, the group’s executive
director/COO Dave Workman said.

Conversely, the partnership will “enhance eBay’s consumer
electronics shopping experience through the selection, knowledge and service
provided by the PRO Group’s world-class retailers,” said Noah Herschman, eBay’s
senior director/chief electronics merchant.

The new pact is part of a larger initiative by eBay
Electronics to build relationships with independent dealers and their vendors.
Herschman said his company can help support the independent channel by sharing
its 11 million CE enthusiast shoppers and providing e-tail services including
store design, payment options, MAP tools, authorized dealer badges, inventory
management and even mobile shopping apps.

Two PRO Group members, Huppin’s/OneCall and J&R Music
& Computer World, already maintain eBay stores.

Getting in on the ground floor of the initiative will help
give PRO’s “bricks-and-clicks” dealers higher priority on product searches,
while helping eBay develop the CE category and change its image as strictly an
auction site, Workman told TWICE. The e-commerce platform, which is the second
most heavily trafficked in the U.S., also provides an alternative to the
third-party marketplace on, where dealers have a smaller profile and
remain in competition with the e-tailer.

 “It’s an incredible
opportunity and will be an important part of our e-commerce strategy,” Workman

Both partners said they plan to build on the relationship
and develop specific initiatives early this year.

Herschman, who was a member of PRO Group during his tenure
at Tweeter Home Entertainment, said the goal is to integrate all member dealers
into the platform this year. The agreement, he said, “represents the maturing
of the consumer electronics retail business … as a new retail environment
emerges and the lines blur between offline and online shopping experiences.”

The deal “will help foster a true specialty electronics
shopping experience in this retail environment,” he told TWICE,

eBay describes itself as the world’s largest e-commerce
company, with nearly $62 billion in auction and fixed-price transactions
worldwide last year.

Herschman, whose nearly 30-year career in CE merchandising
included executive stints at Tweeter and, joined eBay in August from
Staples China.

Separately, PRO parent group BrandSource reported its best
Black Friday promotion ever as a result of new incentives and options offered
through its Expert Warehouse II distribution program. The fulfillment
initiative, managed by Ingram Micro, offers more than 8,000 SKUs in multiple
categories and improved logistics, warehousing, shipping and billing efficiencies.
Its wider assortment of brands, solutions and categories, including laptops,
tablets, headphones, iPod docks and IT-networking components, were developed to
help members drive store traffic, boost sales and augment planned purchases
with rent-to-own options.

“We’re firmly committed to finding new ways to offer members
more choices and better prices,” said Jim Ristow, executive VP of PRO partner
group Home Entertainment Source (HES). “The Expert Warehouse II initiative
levels the playing field for our members because it’s designed to help them go
head-to-head with big box stores.”

Meanwhile, on hand at the ProSource shindig were Earth, Wind
& Fire band members Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, to
support their Gratitude headphone line by Monster.