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Buying Group Rundown: A Who’s Who Of Dealer Organizations

The last 12 months have been an unusually tumultuous time for the industry’s major buying groups, which have seen a series of management changes and new affiliations.

Despite the shakeups, these confederations of independent white- and brown-goods dealers have managed to exceed industry sales averages and actually gain market share within the increasingly crowded retail landscape.

The following overview provides updates on the seven major buying organizations, their buying clout based on 2005 sales and key contact information.

Brand Source (formerly AVB)

100 South Anaheim Blvd.

Suite 250

Anaheim, CA 92805

Phone: (714) 502-9620

Fax:(714) 502-9627

Executive director: Bob Lawrence

Annual volume: $5 billion

Number of members: 2,500

The skinny: The No. 2 buying group has dramatically expanded its reach by forging new affiliations with MARTA and the 314-dealer Flooring Plus organization, and forming new rent-to-own, premium appliance and outdoor furniture/grill divisions.

Home Entertainment Source (HES)

(A division of Brand Source)

2460 South Shore Road

Pelican Lake, WI 54463

Phone: (715) 487-5338

Fax: (425) 740-7540

General manager: Jim Ristow

Annual volume: $1.2 billion

Number of members: 475

The skinny: HES continues to build its dealer distribution program with the addition of vendors Panasonic, Mitsubishi and Hitachi, and just launched an additional warehouse service for custom installation products.

Home Theater Specialists of America(HTSA)

501 E. Uwchlan Avenue

Chester Springs, PA 19425

Phone: (610) 363-9055

Fax: (610) 363-9065

Executive director: Richard Glikes

Annual volume: $600 million

Number of members: 56

The skinny: The A/V specialty group recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by adding its 56th member. HTSA appears especially well poised in the current marketplace given its custom install orientation, and is limited only by supplier inventory constraints, said executive director Richard Glikes.

MARTA Cooperative of America

10165 North 92nd Street

Building E, Suite 103

Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Phone: (480) 443-0211

Fax: (480) 443-3354

Managing director: Bill Bursley

Annual volume: $1.5 billion

Number of members: 90

The skinny: In quick succession, MARTA lost both its longtime executive director Warren Mann and Mann’s successor Dave Workman, and then formed a strategic affiliation with Brand Source. The alliance will allow the group to cut costs and share in the larger organization’s sharp pricing and extensive member services.

Mega Group USA/Best Brands Plus

7511 Capital Drive

Germantown, TN 38138

Phone: (901) 753-8243

Fax: (901) 755-3076

Executive director: Pat Reed

Annual volume: $2 billion

Number of members: 1,000

The skinny: Furniture remains the group’s core product focus, with white goods and CE serving as adjunct categories.

Nationwide Marketing Group

110 Oakwood Drive, Suite 200

Winston-Salem, N.C. 27103

Phone: (336) 722-4681

Fax: (336) 714-2671

President/director: Ed Kelly

Annual volume: $10 billion

Number of members: 2,500

The skinny: The country’s largest majap/CE buying group got bigger through an alliance with the Furniture Marketing Group, the launch of a rent-to-own wing and the creation of an A/V specialty division run by industry veteran Jeannette Howe.

NATM Buying Corporation

450 7th Avenue, Suite 1309

New York, N.Y. 10123

Phone: (212) 239-7222

Fax: (212) 714-0403

President/executive director: Bill Trawick

Annual volume: $3.6 billion

Number of members: 12

The skinny: NATM posted sharp sales gains last year in a market share surge that should carry through 2006 as members continue to aggressively add storefronts. The group is also close to bringing in a 13th member, and is mulling a possible private-label program of flat-panel TVs and accessories.

Progressive Retailers Association (PRO Group)

Chicago office:

910 Skokie Blvd., Suite 115

Northbrook, IL 60062

Phone: (847) 509-4720

Fax: (847) 509-4724

Dallas-Ft. Worth office:

201 Stonington Lane

Colleyville, TX 76034

(817) 428-5212

President/CEO/executive director: David Workman

Annual volume: $1.9 billion

Number of members: 16

The skinny: Longtime president and executive director Roger Heuberger left the group in February in a contract dispute, and was succeeded by former Ultimate Electronics CEO and PRO Group director Dave Workman. The group convenes next week in Scottsdale, Ariz.