LAS VEGAS -- Nationwide TV & Appliance, the country's largest buying group, has forged an e-commerce alliance with appliance.com, the online consumer unit of Appliance Magazine.
According to Nationwide director Ed Kelly, the buying group will become "the fulfillment arm" of the site, which is presently an information-only resource. Beginning this fall, however, the website will act as an infomediary by also parceling out online orders to participating dealers based on consumers' ZIP codes.
The deal was announced to Nationwide members during the group's Prime Time convention, held here at the Mandalay Bay Resort earlier this month.
Kelly said that Nationwide dealers who have joined the venture cover about 75 percent of the U.S. marketplace. Under terms of the deal, Nationwide will have first right of refusal on online orders, allowing appliance.com to turn to alternative fulfillment partners. But the buying group expects to provide product and services for upward of 85 percent of the site's sales.
The site's first trial run is slated to begin in late October or early November in Northern California and will proceed south to San Diego. Kelly said the Oracle-built system will ease the online purchase process for majaps by eventually allowing consumers to "hook up into dealer inventory."
Oak Brook, Ill.-based Dana Chase Publications operates the site and its corporate sister, Appliance Magazine, a trade publication.
Meanwhile, Nationwide used its Prime Time gathering to rally its troops in the face of the seismic changes shaking the appliance industry.
"We've got to focus on how to handle the multitude of large national accounts," Kelly said, referring to such big-box behemoths as Lowe's, Home Depot, Sam's Club and now Wal-Mart, which threaten to take further share from independents. "We do see an opportunity to gain market share, and hope we can move quickly and aggressively during the confusion, before others gain momentum."
Nationwide's strategy, the director said, is sevenfold:
Work with manufacturers on obtaining channel-specific models and longer lead times for new technology products.
- Grab market share abdicated by Circuit City.
- Increase the emphasis on high-end appliances.
- Make accessories a larger part of the assortment.
- Expand furniture opportunities by importing.
- Make a deeper commitment to CE and new digital technologies.
- Build an e-commerce business.
Despite their broadening distribution, said Kelly, manufacturers are "still behind independent retailers and are looking for ways for them to make a profit." He said he understood their need to "look at all the channels, or they'll be blocked out," and concluded that the onus is ultimately on dealers to get aggressive: "No one can watch this race from the grandstand. You've got to get down there in the game."