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Happy Days Are Near Again For NATM

The good times have started to roll again for the NATM Buying Corp.

The $5.5 billion buying group, comprised of the nation’s largest regional CE and appliance chains, said it is successfully charting new industry waters and is enjoying a sales resurgence despite continuing turbulence at retail.

Thanks to a strong appliance market, new opportunities in bedding, burgeoning demand for 4K TV, and the recent addition of an 11th dealer, “business is strong for us,” executive director Jerry Satoren told TWICE at NATM’s annual vendor conference this week in Dallas, with majap volume up double-digits year over year and CE  sales outpacing the industry. [See more conference photos, here.]

Satoren also attributed the group’s success to members’ dominance within their respective markets; their willingness to share best practices (“open kimonos,” he said); and their ability to change with the industry, consumer shopping habits and the times.

The later was underscored by the theme of the conference, “Embracing Change … Together.” Among those changes, Satoren and longtime NATM lieutenant Michael Maund said, are:

* the addition of new product categories like bedding and unlocked phones;

* access to IT, home automation and IoT inventory through its distributor partnerships with New Age Electronics and D&H distributing;

* early-stage work on shared services like data collection, warranty services and sub-prime financing to cut costs and add value; and

* a formalized series of best-practices meetings, beginning next year, where the group’s 11 members will share insights into every retail function from operations and merchandising to advertising and delivery.

Another major change, initiated when Satoren took the group’s reins from predecessor Bill Trawick last fall, is the return to member-led buying committees and a dealer president for the first time since 1992. Satoren said the active membership and the work of RC Willey CEO Scott Hymas as president “have been a huge asset and a big help” in his first year on the job, and that the role of the buying committees is still evolving.

Also proving beneficial to the group’s vendor relationships is his own manufacturing pedigree, which includes extended stints at DSI Systems, Toshiba and Thomson, he said.

Looking ahead, Satoren expects the usual “craziness” around Black Friday pricing, particularly in 55- to 65-inch 4K TV, but foresees a successful holiday season for the group overall and even gladder TV tidings next year when tier-one vendors begin providing 70- to 80-inch panels at today’s $3,000 sweet-spot price point.

A full report from the NATM vendor conference will appear in the Oct. 12 print edition of TWICE.