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Nationwide Positioned As Pan-Retail Haven

NASHVILLE, TENN. – The Nationwide Marketing Group may be expanding its retail purview.

With traditional retailers under siege from online-only sellers, the $15 billion merchandising and services organization may be positioning itself as a sanctuary for brick-and-mortar dealers of all stripes.

“There’s a place for every retailer in America to be part of the Nationwide family,” noted co-CEO Robert Weisner, during the group’s PrimeTime meeting and buy fair here last week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

In the meantime, he said, the group must continue to serve as “the savior for independent dealers,” and help vendors reach and leverage that channel.

With attrition “going on in the world regardless of category,” and an aging U.S. population, growth for the 3,700-member group is imperative, he said.

“Maintaining is losing, and we must charge ahead,” he declared.

To that end, the group set as its growth goal 500 new members this year, and has already welcomed 281 dealers aboard in the first half.

The additions, along with returning business momentum, contributed to what co-CEO Les Kirk described as the largest summer show in Nationwide history, with some 4,000 attendees in total, comprised of 200 vendor and 915 member companies, and 235,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a bedding pavilion to support that explosive sector.

And to support its burgeoning member base, the group is expanding its free suite of “Just Say Yes” digital marketing services, developed by member services senior VP Frank Sandtner, and its 360º Multi-Platform Media Packages program of multimedia ads and instore displays, under the guidance of marketing senior VP Rick Weinberg.

“Members have to fish where the fish are and use the right bait,” Weinberg said, and Nationwide provides “a deeper tackle box” of in-store assets and web, print, radio and TV promotions.

Separately, the group said it is continuing its search for a successor to Jeannette Howe to lead Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), the specialty A/V and installer/integrator division, which continues to be honchoed for the interim by senior electronics VP Tom Hickman.

Kirk added that he, with 30 years at Nationwide, and Weisner, a founding member with 40 years at the helm, have since developed a new generation of managers led by president/COO Dave Bilas and executive VP Jeff Knock, to whom they have essentially turned over the group’s management reins. “We’re assisting and guiding now,” he said.

Added Weisner, “We’ll be the guiding angels for the next couple of years, but I don’t think I’ll ever not think about where we’re going as a group.”