GERMANTOWN, TENN. – Mega Group USA is in the catbird seat. Long before mattresses became the hot-button product category for margin-shy CE and appliance dealers, bedding was front and center for this 1,700-member buying group.
But rather than rest on its Posturepedic laurels, Mega Group has continuously extended its reach into new disciplines like web design and digital marketing; explosive product categories like home automation and outdoor grills; and marketplace opportunities, like RadioShack.
The latter came in the form of the CE chain’s February bankruptcy and subsequent sell-off. But still left in the lurch are some 750 independent RadioShack dealers, whose contracts will be put up for auction this month.
Deciding to put their fate in their own hands, RadioShack franchisee Frank Beer, in concert with Mega, created Mega Tech Group (MTG), an affiliated but nonetheless autonomous buying group for fellow franchisees. While a federal bankruptcy court decides whether RadioShack’s final fire sale can go forward, Beer is looking to Mega to provide his peers discounted merchandise through its negotiated vendor programs, as well as retail services like insurance, advertising, marketing, web design, consulting and IT support.
These store owners “need to have their own organization to create community and share best practices,” Mega Group president Rick Bellows said. “It’s a critical component for them to have their own group.”
Under the plan, Mega Tech members would have full access to Mega Group’s buying programs and services, and would attend its biannual conventions, perhaps with a separate slate of seminars. Merchandising programs would initially focus on CE and related accessories, but could eventually expand to major appliances and bedding, Bellows said.
Mega already boasts several dozen RadioShack dealers within its ranks, and some 20 to 25 owners joined the new affiliate group right off the bat.
Beer, a 30-year RadioShack veteran who spent half that time on the corporate side and the last 15 years running two franchised stores in Kansas, anticipates another 200 candidates for MTG, depending on the outcome of the RadioShack asset auctions.
Meanwhile, Mega hasn’t allowed any grass to grow beneath it on the merchandising side either. During its recent national convention, the group held consultative sessions on home automation, and reviewed dealer roadmaps for entrée into that mushrooming business.
“Home automation was explosive at CES; this is clearly the next big thing,” noted Jim Sendrak, Mega’s CE and marketing executive VP. “For those members who embrace it, it could be the breath of fresh air that dealers have been waiting for in CE.”
Also underscoring Mega’s focus on growth sectors was the recent addition of “outdoor” to the title of appliances VP Melissa (“Missy”) Hodges. In announcing the promotion, Mega described the outdoor category as “highly profitable,” and said the seasonal furniture, cooking and lawn-care brands it carries, such as Broil King, Briggs & Stratton, Laguna Grills and Trex Outdoor Furniture, account for nearly half of all outdoor industry sales.
On the marketing front, where Mega has been on the buying group forefront of web design and social media, the organization hit the road last quarter with a traveling ad workshop for members. The program, dubbed Mega U, was launched late last year to steep the group’s independent furniture, appliance and CE dealers in the changing advertising landscape, and to help them maximize their marketing investments by blending traditional and digital media.
“With so many more media choices available today to our members, we recognize how the task of planning and executing an effective advertising campaign has grown to be more challenging,” said Sendrak.
The road show is an extension of the group’s new Mega Marketing advertising division, and provides a deeper dive into the subject than can be presented during the group’s biannual conventions, he said. The workshops feature Mega partners from the worlds of traditional media, website design and administration, and digital and social-media marketing, who along with Mega managers provide the knowhow to build a cohesive and customized marketing plan.