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Nationwide’s Bilas: NECO Split Was Unexpected

NECO’s decision to leave the Nationwide Marketing Group came as a surprise to senior management, but its impact will be mitigated as the buying organization will retain some of NECO’s largest dealers.

 Nationwide president/CEO Dave Bilas described the move as “sudden and a bit surprising” following a prosperous 18-year affiliation.

But the former GE and Whirlpool exec also expressed personal disappointment in the decision, given his longtime relationships with many NECO chapters and dealers that pre-date Nationwide and go as far back as 30 years.

Nonetheless, Bilas said the group is working closely with its former Northeast chapter to ensure a smooth transition, and that his friendships won’t change. “They’re still my friends,” he told TWICE, “and we wish them the very best. We want to see all independents thrive.”

Bilas said it will be tough to rebuild Nationwide’s footprint in the Northeast, where NECO has built a 700-store warehousing organization with well more than $1 billion in volume.

But he said there are still unaffiliated dealers in the region, particularly within the furniture and bedding channel, that are ripe for recruitment.

What’s more, the group won’t be taking the full brunt of the volume loss, as some of NECO’s largest dealers are dual-members that will remain within Nationwide’s large-volume Brand Builders division, he said.

Bilas added that NECO’s motivation was to strike out on its own rather than join another buying group. “They felt it was time to spread their wings,” he said.

NECO executive director Anthony Bruno declined to comment on the group’s decision to leave Nationwide or its strategic plans going forward.