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Attention Independents: Buying Group Conventions Are In Season

If it’s August, it must be buying group time, the end-of-the-summer period when these confederations of independent dealers convene in host cities to begin planning for the all-important holiday season ahead.

This month did not disappoint, bringing a trifecta of the country’s top buying groups for the CE, appliance and home furnishings industries.

Kicking off the calendar was Mega Group USA’s Fall National Convention, which was held Aug. 12-15 at the Omni Hotel & Music Center in Nashville.

As this issue went to press, the 1,850-member merchandising and marketing organization was anticipating a record turnout for the biannual event. Why? Besides the lure of the country music mecca, the group’s independent furniture, electronics, appliance and bedding dealers were eager to see and hear the latest in new products and services to help them compete in the changing industry landscape, said Mega president Rick Bellows.

“This year we’ve seen so many changes and upsets in retail, all of which have had a direct effect on the independent channel,” noted Bellows. “But from many of our members we’re hearing that this is one of their best years ever.”

“We’ll use this time together to encourage and challenge our members to look for ways to adapt with the changing landscape,” he continued, “and to be aggressive in pursuit of customers. We believe the independent channel is primed for growth; we just have to go after it with intensity.”

To that end, Mega planned a gangbuster cluster of workshops and training sessions in merchandising, marketing, business planning, employee engagement and financials, as well as keynotes by comedian and storyteller Kelly Swanson and digital engagement expert Andrew Davis.

In addition, Mega released its own “Guide to Navigating Digital Media,” and offered one-on-one consults during the show.

“Our goal is to distill what we know so it’s understandable and create strategies that are easily executable at the local level,” said Mega marketing director Amanda Evans. “Digital doesn’t have to be intimidating, and we hope this new guide will help remove some of the mystery and complexity.”

Other highlights included a 45-vendor “Mega Madness” buying session for closeouts and show specials, and the 90-plus-vendor buy show that included more than 20 first-time exhibitors.

According to exhibitor Netsertive, a marketing technology company that brings national brands and local businesses together, the overriding theme of the show was investing in technology and embracing digital in order to remain competitive – whether that means mobile-ready websites or mounting door cameras in-store to measure foot traffic or tie a face to an email.

Next up in the convention cavalcade is the Nationwide Marketing Group, which convenes this week at the Venetian/Palazzo/Sands complex in Las Vegas. In its push to get its members up and running in home automation, the $15 billion marketing, merchandising and services organization is presenting a mock connected home on the exhibition floor of its biannual PrimeTime show.

Nationwide is also pressing it partnership with Nest Labs and “Works With Nest” products, which the group’s merchants consider a key conduit into the connected-home market.

“Nationwide members understand the growth potential as more and more of their customers seek connected-home solutions,” said senior executive Tom Hickman. “Our partnership with Nest gives them an entry point with the most advanced and consumer-favored lineup in the business. We expect tremendous growth as Nest and ‘Works With Nest’ products continue to gain momentum.”

Nationwide first feathered its Nest last spring, when it began bringing just-in-time inventory to dealers via Nest distributors Audio America, AVAD, Capitol Sales and Volutone, and through the group’s own online ordering portal, dubbed eXchange.

“Nest and the whole ‘Works With Nest’ family of products are the gateway to Nationwide dealers selling deeper connected-home solutions like those from Control 4 and Elan,” added Hank Alexander, director of Home Technology Specialists Nationwide (HTSN), the group’s custom-install division. “It’s proven — once a consumer gets started on building their connected home, they come back again and again.”

To help get members into the swing of connected things, Nationwide is showing the latest iteration of its turnkey, in-store home automation display, called the Connected Home Kiosk, which provides easy entrée into the category for TV, appliance and bedding dealers.

The group is also demonstrating the latest enhancement to its Member-Net TV service, which provides dealers with movie trailers, demo clips, digital signage and marketing messages for in-store display.

The platform, developed and executed by Nationwide’s PrimeMedia studios in Atlanta, was upgraded in March — along with the studio’s production facilities — to offer those marketing assets in 4K Ultra HD.

“The ability to stand out in the marketplace has never been more important,” said CE merchandising lead Doug Wrede, “and the stunning clarity of UHD video in the appliance, furniture and even bedding departments creates a show-stopping moment for consumers.”

Rounding out the month is next week’s BrandSource/AVB 2017 Convention, running Aug. 27-30 at Caesars Palace. The 4,500-member organization, comprised of the BrandSource, rent-to-own Trib, custom integration ProSource and home furnishings HFA Buying Source arms, represents over 8,000 storefronts in North America and has already sold out its room block at the host hotel.

TWICE will have full post-show coverage in the Sept. 6 issue.