Nationwide Pushes Profit Opportunities



Nationwide Marketing Group celebrated its 40th anniversary by serving up a rich platter of margin-building opportunities for independent dealers at its biannual PrimeTime! show here last month.

Profit drivers presented to the 900 retail businesses on hand at the Venetian, Sands and Palazzo hotel and convention complex included a full roster of tablet computers and accessories; a line of elderly friendly electronics called Senior Circuits; a movie, calibration disc and HDMI cable bundle packaged through an exclusive deal with Disney; a new private-label bedding line from Serta; and the addition of Universal Remote Control (URC) to Nationwide’s vendor roster.

The group also emphasized new opportunities for white-goods dealers and custom installers in smartgrid appliances, and featured what Jeannette Howe, executive director of the group’s Specialty Electronics Nationwide division (SEN), described as the first seminar to bring together vendors (GE), utilities (NV Energy) and home-automation suppliers (Control4).

To help members compete at the opening price point and drive more traffic, the $12-billion, 10,000-storefront buying, marketing and services group also added Sansui/Orion to its roster of competitively priced TV brands, which includes Haier and Funai’s Magnavox and Philips nameplates.

“More folks understand that they need to enter new categories with better margins,” noted Robert Weisner, who last month succeeded the retiring Ed Kelly as Nationwide’s president. To that end, major appliance dealers have been adding mattresses to their mix to prop up profits amid aggressive whitegoods discounting, while furniture dealers are being encouraged to consider CE and majaps as opportunities to build traffic and add incremental sales.

Weisner said Nationwide is also targeting the country’s thousands of unaffiliated furniture dealers as a way to expand its ranks as members retire or close shop, and plans to add several hundred furniture companies this year. The 3,000-member group lost about 100 dealers through attrition in 2010 but brought 240 new retailers aboard.

To help members address succession issues and refresh their own management skills, Nationwide will hold a small-business training conference April 3-5 in Fort Worth, Texas.

On the product front, Nationwide is offering a wide assortment of tablet PCs, including models from Azpen, Coby, Samsung, Toshiba, Viewsonic and, shortly, LG. CE merchandising VP Doug Schatz described the category as an incremental business opportunity, and one that member dealers are well-positioned to exploit given their assisted sales floors, which will help reduce returns.

Tablets are easier to sell and are more profitable than desktop PCs, which some 10 percent of Nationwide dealers already carry and, complemented by a full basket of accessories, can provide compelling average selling prices and a meaningful ticket that is in line with members’ business models. At least half of the group’s dealers are suited to carry tablets, he said.

Schatz acknowledged the opportunity in 3G and 4G carrier subscription services, although the first order of business he said is “to set the table for tablets.”

Other new programs include the 11-SKU Senior Circuits line of powered carts, heart and blood pressure monitors, TV ear buds, large-button remotes and cordless phones, and simple PCs and fax machines that addresses the aging U.S. population. CE marketing VP Mike Decker described the demographic as enormously underserved, and said the products, displayed in 200-square-foot to 400-square-foot departments, can deliver very high margins in the 40 percent to 50 percent range.

SEN’s Howe added that tele-health solutions that transmit medical data via Control4 and other platforms is a related area that needs to be addressed.

Nationwide has also developed a calibration disc and HDMI cable bundle that’s pre-packaged with Disney DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles like “Fantasia” and “Tron” that will be exclusive to the group worldwide. The bundles are priced to retail from $99 to $139, which will provide 55 percent margins, Decker noted.

Nationwide, which offers DirecTV subscriptions through distributor DSI, is also in discussions with other content-delivery providers and plans to announce deals with two major brand names in August, Decker said. The group may also eye e-readers and other newfor- Nationwide devices, as dealers need to diversify their assortments, he said. Fortunately, added Schatz, members are showing a strong response to the new categories and a willingness to try new things.

Despite new growth opportunities in mobility, TV will continue to be a cornerstone of Nationwide’s CE business, which has as much as a 25 percent market share in panels sized 50 inches and larger, Decker said. Dealers will be armed with aggressive marketing programs from LG, Samsung and Toshiba, including buy-get and rebate offers, to help draw footsteps into stores and accelerate unit sales.

Elsewhere, the group is providing a new TV campaign for its largest “Brand Builder” dealers called “We’re the Place.” Recently promoted COO Les Kirk said the Nationwide-produced effort features customized 30-second spots for both broadcast and in-store play over proprietary digital signage.

Nationwide is also addressing the online channel with additional programs, including Internet and email marketing solutions and a customized e-commerce platform for more web-savvy dealers. Member service operations director and resident web guru Frank Sandtner said the new programs provide a wider range of options to better match members’ online sophistication and e-commerce interest.

Following the small-business management conference in April, Nationwide will return to the Lone Star State Aug. 21-24 for its fall PrimeTime! event, which will be held at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas.


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