Nationwide Says Economy, 'Share' Plan Is Boosting Sales

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LAS VEGAS – The Nationwide Marketing Group new management team greeted retail members and suppliers at its PrimeTime convention, here, with upbeat news about its overall sales, as well as the progress on its Prepare For Share program introduced in the spring.

This was the first PrimeTime was led by Dave Bilas as president/CEO, Jeff Knock as chief commercial officer, Tom Hickman as executive VP of electronics and distribution, and Frank Sandtner as executive VP member services. In late July the group announced that longtime co-CEOs Robert Weisner and Les Kirk have retired but will remain as directors.

Nationwide’s sales mix comes from major appliances (50 percent), “CE related” (25 percent), and bedding and furniture (25 percent). The group generates $15 billion in combined sales from 3,800 members — a gain of 150 (many from the furniture business) — and 11,000 storefronts.

About sales mix, Bilas explained, “Our heritage is major appliances, but our CE sales are bigger than a lot of [national] retailers, and we have a pretty good sized bedding and furniture business.”

Bilas and Knock explained that after a slow first quarter, business is booming across the board

Bilas pointed out that with the economy coming out of a housing downturn, “any time that happens, you have increases of [housing] starts and completions. The increased turnover on both sides ... propels retail.” He also said that the cyclical nature of product replacement in major appliances has begun to happen. “Those appliance units are ready to turn” from several years ago when sales took off.

As for the first half, “If you take out the Northeast in the first quarter, the rest of the country did well.” Bilas noted that in the second quarter “continuing sales momentum, and the ability of people in the Northeast being able to get out, shop and take care of pent-up demand” increased sales.

Knock added, “Business is booming now, but it started out kind of like the first quarter of ’14. It was slow due to the weather. Port embargoes hurt distribution, and then the aftermath was a lot of inventory challenges.”

However, the second quarter was “unbelievable for us,” Knock volunteered, because of better weather and pent-up consumer demand, among other factors. The Prepare For Share program was also a big part of it.

Prepare For Share, introduced at the spring PrimeTime in Dallas, provides participating members to real-time access to key products in all categories with special promotions and pricing. The goal is not only to take share away from a weakened Sears but to leverage the sales and service expertise of Nationwide members, as well as the group’s marketing and distribution savvy, to benefit members and suppliers.

Knock said Prepare For Share is “simple to use in the marketplace. Our plan takes info online that is local and customized for each dealer.” This is not a “generic message,” but one that is “surgical ... for each member’s marketplace,” he said.

He noted that Nationwide’s strategic vendors “are all in” on the plan providing “exclusive products, special deals across the board. It is building business, increasing share and footprints for all product categories.”

For instance, Knock said that in major appliances the Prepare To Share effort has “increased our growth. Nationwide has outperformed the industry three to one. The program provides our member with critical resources, improves the in-store experience, and enables our members to execute these programs easily.”

Sandtner said that since the spring 600 members have joined the Prepare To Share program, and many more were expected to join at the show.

The program includes website development via approved Nationwide web developers. The group feeds product data, MAP pricing, product rebates and product videos.

The “Just Say Yes!” digital marketing program that is funded by Nationwide and its partners covers 35 brands and 100 campaigns which members can pick for their sites. There are also services to improve local directory listings for retailers, getting reviews and helping the mobile shopping experience.

Rick Weinberg, senior VP of marketing, said Nationwide’s 360 Marketing program is aimed at supporting the Prepare For Share program and creates new opportunities via TV ads, digital in-store signage, web banners, print and in-store print signage, all backed by the group’s member service teams. Nationwide has long been a leading in TV ad and video production for its members.

In Nationwide’s distribution area, Exchange, Dean Sottile, senior VP of distribution logistics, reported that at the show 175 brands and nearly 5,000 SKUs would be available. The team of distributors in Exchange has expanded with the addition of Volutone. The other distributors that are part of the team are: Audio America, Capitol Sales, CED, D&H Distributing, DSI Systems and Petra.

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