Brand Source, MERA Form Mobile Entertainment Source Car Stereo Co-Op

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Brand Source/AVB and the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) are joining forces to form a new car stereo buying co-op called Mobile Entertainment Source (MES). The new 12-volt group will claim approximately 450 retail members when it soft launches in January, and is expected to be supported by a significant number of suppliers, MERA said.

MERA will continue as an association and said the co-op is just another service to members who wish to participate.

Brand Source, the 4,000-dealer CE, majap and home furnishings buying organization, will help MERA provide its members group product purchasing and 12- to 24-month interest-free financing at competitively low rates. Members will also have access to other Brand Source services, including its own extended-service company, wholesale finance company and warehouse delivery program. Other benefits will include health insurance.

MERA is calling the new group a "marketing, promotion and product cooperative" that will function as a non-profit organization that seeks to elevate the success of specialty mobile electronics retailers. It is an "affiliation that has all the benefits of a division of AVB," said MERA executive director Rick Mathies.

MERA members, either suppliers or retailers, are not required to participate in the co-op, but MERA retailers will automatically be enrolled for a free trial period, possibly from three to six months. Following that, retail members will be required to pay a fee.

The co-op will go into effect in 2008, with a soft launch in January at International CES. "By that time we'll have a nice array of manufacturers on board. You'll be surprised at how many and how quickly," Mathies said.

The co-op plan was proposed at a MERA manufacturer summit held last month in Chicago. Mathies said the response from suppliers was "overwhelming." He noted, "A while back, manufacturers said they would never join a buying group, but times change."

Mathies said the co-op is a win-win solution for all factions. For the retailers, it helps "level the playing field with the big box retailers" while giving suppliers "better retailers [and] better merchandised stores [that] move more goods." He added, "For AVB, they get another division of retailers using the same benefits and marketing, so it costs less for everybody."

He said MERA started the co-op because "it needs to be done. It's a way to move these retailers forward."

MERA currently has 280 retail members and 52 supplier members. In addition there are 130 retailers in Brand Source's specialty A/V division, dubbed Home Entertainment Source (HES), with car stereo capability that will likely join the group for a total of about 450 retail members initially.

The co-op will become the second buying group in car audio, joining In Car Experts (ICE), which launched last year. ICE supplier members include JL Audio, Boston Acoustics, Pioneer, AAMP, Metra, Pro.Fit, Avidworx and Warrantech. ICE executive director Rob Elliott claimed his group differs from the MERA co-op in that ICE limits its retail members to those who meet certain performance standards.


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