PRO, HES Relationship On Display

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Scottsdale, Ariz. - The relationship between the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) and the Home Entertainment Group (HES) of BrandSource is on display at PRO's spring meeting here, not so much with new programs but as an alternative to what some call "big-box" retailers.


Dave Workman, executive director of PRO Group and host of this week's meeting, said that the relationship between both groups is "evolving," and for PRO members, "provides us with a warehouse solution for some members that makes sense."

PRO's newest members include former HES or BrandSource members World Wide Stereo, The Big Screen Store and an appliance/electronics retailer like Bill Smith Inc. that is more majaps (for now) in its mix than CE.

"The foundation of alliance is the same and has been since the beginning," Workman said, "to position [HES] and our group as a larger block of business to the industry. It is about line mix, technology and expertise ... more than what a big box can offer."

Jim Ristow, executive director of HES, told TWICE here Tuesday that the alliance between PRO and his group is to "continue to carry a channel message [of HES and PRO]. We just came from Asia and discussed the advantages of doing business with our retailers. We are building relationships with the right suppliers for the right types of products. We are doing a lot of messaging to the vendor community to continue their support. This is an evolution and has been beneficial to [HES and PRO].

When asked about former BrandSource members Wide World Stereo and Big Screen Store joining PRO, Ristow said, "We are looking for an industry solution. [HES and PRO] want to partner with the right vendors, place the right members with the right groups. We want partnerships ... we are looking for the betterment of the industry."

While the mood here has been upbeat, given the dismal economic and market conditions of the past couple of years, Ristow noted, "We believe that we are in the midst of a continuing consolidation. Those that are left will dominate ... and we intend to be around."

Concerning current market conditions, Ristow said that while there may be product shortages, "There are positives. There is a stabilization of pricing. Consumers have embraced the 3D experience to the surprise of many in the industry. And the VOD feature is something the consumer wants -- we can step up the consumer and raise ASPs."

He agreed with the description of the current market as "choppy" through April but noted, "I'm bullish about the second half. This is anecdotal, but consumer confidence appears to be picking up on some discretionary purchases."

About PRO's 2010 brand plans, Workman noted it is "premature to discuss any brand realignment" but that it has been "vocal about channel strategies" that back specialty retailers and that many suppliers have "put programs behind their words" about supporting the channel.

And, thanks to 3D TV, PRO members are looking at alternative categories, such as video games. "You can't make a nickel on [video game] hardware," but he said the group is looking at different areas package product with TVs, Blu-ray and other 3D products to garner profits with this technology," Workman said.


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