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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.