InstallerNet Makes Move To Buy MERA - Twice

InstallerNet Makes Move To Buy MERA

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North Andover, Mass. - InstallerNet, which sells installation service through a network of thousands of retailers, plans to purchase car stereo trade group the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA), which would become a wholly owned and for-profit subsidiary of InstallerNet.

InstallerNet's network, which includes  2,000 car stereo retailers, would be given free membership in MERA for one year, so the organization that had more than 200 members would grow in size by ten-fold, said Tony Frangiosa InstallerNet president and CEO.

MERA's board of trustees unanimously accepted InstallerNet's proposal, and a ballot vote will go to MERA's retail members within two weeks.

MERA will retain all of its services, and InstallerNet will provide members with market research, online tools and a roaming education force of seven "Pro-Team" vans, said Frangiosa.   

MERA executive director Barry Vogel who will continue his role for an interim period, said the deal makes sense as both organizations share the goal of dealer education. 

Vogel called the transaction a win-win situation for members. "I don't see why members won't approve it. They are losing nothing, and there will be more services and products available, and education will be expanded because we'll be able to give in-person presentations through the Pro-Team, plus online education. These are things MERA wanted to do but wasn't able to do."

Frangiosa affirmed, "The things that InstallerNet was trying to do were the same things that MERA was trying to do." He explained that the purchase of MERA "is not a value purchase. In fact, there's probably more assets that go over to the association from InstallerNet than the other way around. It's not a traditional purchase."

One of InstallerNet's assets is its market research information about vehicles and products installed in vehicles, which will now be available to MERA members as a tool to improve their business, said Frangiosa. InstallerNet also provides a "dealer locator" that can list installer-retailers on various manufacturers' Web sites. "We power a lot of retailer and manufacturer Web sites with Fit Guides, including Best Buy, Sony, JBL ... they have a hard time putting up information about their independent retailers on their Web sites. Now that tool will also be part of MERA ... so you can get the independents listed and get pictures of their stores."

The Pro Team service vans to be available to MERA currently travel to InstallerNet outlets to provide training as well as to take photos of the stores and gather information for marketing use. 

Frangiosa explained that InstallerNet benefits from well trained, professional installers. InstallerNet sells retail "gift cards" for installation of products, including car stereo products, and home and computer products. Its "installation cards" are sold through Walmart, Costco, RadioShack, Crutchfield, Target, Amazon and in conjunction with Sony and Sirius. Customers who use InstallerNet report on their installer experience, and installers who receive the highest rankings receive the most referrals for redeeming the gift cards. Stores are ranked by whether they are "female friendly," if they have a waiting room, if they are in a safe neighborhood, etc.

MERA will not become a buying group, "although we're certainly supportive of MERA members offering discounts," Frangiosa said. But he stated, "MERA members will have real opportunities to increase revenue while reducing operating expenses. Our new programs will drive store traffic."

While MERA will be a wholly owned subsidiary, it will be operated and managed separately, said Frangiosa. MERA's current board will continue on for an interim period and Frangiosa expects to expand the board to include manufacturer and rep counsels.

InstallerNet said it is committed to reviving the KnowledgeFest trade gathering run by MERA in 2010.  Frangiosa said MERA will seek feedback on an ideal place and time for the KnowledgeFest.

Other parties that bid on purchasing MERA included trade associations and private companies, but their names were not disclosed.

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