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InstallerNet Makes Move To Buy MERA

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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