Cherchez La Femme

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The following letter was sent in response to TWICE's special June 6 report, Selling CE To Women.

TO THE EDITOR:

It's about time someone caught on to who makes the decisions out there in the living room or family room!

I have been in this business for 23 years, and back in the '80s I got the company I worked for at the time started in the furniture business. We added it to our electronics just to make the decision easier for the husband and wife together.

To get the owner of the company to even think about furniture, I had to put together a consignment type set-up with a local furniture vendor. Eventually the owner thought putting furniture around the TVs was a great idea, started looking around at furniture companies, and ended up with adjustable units around the big screens.

This was very successful, and the add-on furniture brought back the ever declining gross profit. The industry caught on very quickly and then something very predictable happened: Furniture dealers wanted to get in on the action. Well, there went the profitability again. They brought TV lines in and decided to give away the TVs with the sale of the furniture at full pop. So then we, the TV dealers, had to start matching TV prices, which eroded our margins even more!

Throughout these 23 years, I have watched the industry from a different point of view, being one of the few women who has lasted this long. I have been trying to have my voice heard for years. Three years ago I went to a dealer summit for new product, and in the marketing segment they showed us the venues they were going to use for advertising, which included Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Car Racing and so on. I stood up and stated that they should think about hitting magazines that women read, or to run ads on Lifetime or Home and Garden Network.

The response was very negative, and since then I have preferred to keep my thoughts to my own business. I own two stores in the San Diego area now, and we are continually dealing with changing the state of the stores to provide a showroom that will appeal to both men and women. Our business has started to really take off in the plasma area. Our newest challenge is keeping up with the installs, so now we are changing the face of the showroom again to show more plasmas on stands, so that we can deliver 50 percent and install 50 percent of the televisions.

My point is, the husband and wife are both the decision makers and most places tend to not give women the time of day. I have seen it, and I have discussed this fully with my sales staff. They now know — after watching my sales always top everyone else's, and the referrals that come back which they now get because I'm not on the floor as much as I would like — that the wife is probably the most important person to answer questions for. You give them the respect and time they need to help in making the decision, and the sale is yours.

Sincerely,

Debra Holland, Owner, Convoy Big Screens, San Diego, Calif.

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