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Levin Event Hosts Varied Dealer Lineup

Consumer electronics and photo suppliers met in one-on-one meetings with the usual retailers, plus retailers not normally associated with the industry, at a relatively new trade show, here, earlier this month.

The show was the ECRM/Levin Consulting Electronics & Photo Retail Summit. From Sept. 15-17, 62 CE and photo industry vendors met with 54 retailers — around 200 individual attendees — for a schedule of 20-minute one-on-one meetings.

The goals? For suppliers, it was to add new and different types of retail channels to its customer mix, as well as typical dealers they are not selling. Non-traditional retailers were looking to add CE and photo products to their wares.

Levin Consulting partnered with Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM), an Ohio-based operation that holds similar events in a wide variety of retail-oriented industries and has deep relationships with many different types of retail channels. The two held their first show together in the spring.

Adam Levin, CEO of Levin Consulting, said the goal of the show is to give both manufacturers and retailers face-to-face “quality time” in private suites to see if they can do business together. He called the list of vendors and retailers, “about 200 people,” a “workable size” for this type of event.

The appeal of this show for many of the first timers is that non-traditional CE retailers, such as 7-Eleven,, Stop & Shop and others, are interested in expanding their CE lineup. Some of the suppliers here have never sold to those types of dealers before, but they see opportunities.

Here are a few of the suppliers who attended this show, what they discussed with retailers and what they are focusing on:

General Imaging: This digital camera manufacturer introduced its licensed GE-brand lineup in 2007 and was here even though it now sells its line through 23,000 locations in the United States — from chains like Sears, Toys “R” Us and Walmart.

A first-time attendee at this show, Rene Buhay, sales and marketing senior VP, Americas, and Jim Prandine, sales director, said that retail presence is the key for its line. “We need Wal-Mart and Best Buy, but we also need regional retailers … [and] drug stores, which are moving more to digital imaging on the photo side,” Buhay said.

“The GE brand is the catalyst,” Buhay said. “We are priced correctly for the types of cameras we have in the line. Unlike some others, we provide an everyday low price. We present the line to retailers as your bread-and-butter value line.”

Mobile Edge: This supplier of fashion-oriented laptop computer carrying cases, backpacks and related products came to this show to investigate if its line could be sold in alternative retail channels.

President/CEO G. David Cartwright directly said why his company attended the show. “Some of our traditional retailers are margin restrictive. We are looking for markets where we can make more margin.”

For instance, the company turned to the college bookstore channel to sell college-specific laptop bags, which has been successful. Mobile Edge also showed three of its new Transportation Safety Authority-approved laptop bags for jet travel.

Bell Micro: This maker of external PC storage drives, among other products, focused on its Hammer Storage line that “can be personalized like an iPod with a ‘skin’ consisting of family photos, decals or other graphics,” said John Tonthat, VP.

“The message we are providing to retailers here is that we are all about storage,” Tonthat said. “We are the largest disk drive maker in the world. We have a critical mass of global sources to provide consumers the best drives at the lowest prices.”

Genesis Worldwide: This is the marketer of the Key Connection computer accessories line. Robert Flynn, president/CEO, and Douglas Jones, sales manager, said the company was showing its Keys U See large-print computer keyboards and showed a wireless keyboard/mouse combo that is shipping Nov. 1 at $59.99 and its Totem line of fashion-oriented laptop bags, designed for women, that will range in price from $39.95 to $79.95 at retail when they debut in January.

“Our goal is to design and provide unique products vs. ‘me-too’ products in these categories,” Flynn said.

Jones said the company sells to the military exchanges and the assisted-technology channel; he came to the show to “add distribution” from other types of retail channels.

Price Point Accessories: This is a New York-based company with a name that is blunt when it comes to its merchandising philosophy. Price Point sales VP Adam Gemal said that for his company, “Price is the key.” The 15-year-old company sells the GoStereo-brand audio accessories, especially popular or iPod or MP3 speaker sets.

He showed those types of products and reported that his company will be selling Marvel Comics-licensed CE products soon.

Gemal has been to four other ECRM shows over the years — “and we love it” — and Price Point’s retail distribution shows it: 50 percent drug chains, 40 percent national chains, and another 10 percent of toy stores and small kiosks.

The Quest Group: This company is building on its AudioQuest specialty brand to broaden the appeal of its WireLogic A/V cable and accessories line, according to Bill Boyer, sales VP, and Bob St. John, national sales manager of WireLogic.

The appeal of this event for Boyer is that “the cost of doing business is low. How much would it cost us to fly to 54 [retailer] offices?” The second appeal is that, “We get to meet with different types of retailers we have never met with before and have gotten great feedback on our line.”

Quest with WireLogic is trying to take