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Nationwide Summer Convention Draws Record Crowd

Some 2,000 attendees comprised of member dealers, manufacturers and retail service organizations packed the 60,000-square-foot exhibit area at Caesar’s Palace for the Nationwide Television and Appliance Association’s biannual PrimeTime! convention last month.

The record crowd, which represented the largest attendance increase in the buying group’s history, converged for four days of product launches, workshops, exhibits and assorted member business, which included new promotions, services and e-commerce site enhancements.

Nationwide, which now stands about 6,000 storefronts strong with nearly $8 billion in cumulative annual sales, drew more than 200 vendors to the event. “It’s been a full house every day,” observed group director Robert Weisner of the convention floor action. He said that Nationwide’s Cash-Back Now instant rebate promotion “has kept the vendors’ booths packed,” which led to a record number of instant rebates being issued to member dealers.

Members will also get a break on group insurance rates, Nationwide execs announced at the show, thanks to a series of initiatives designed to control costs. “Insurance premiums were getting out of control,” explained executive director Ed Kelly. “We had to circle the group’s wagons and leverage our size in order to reduce these costs for our members.” As a result, new health insurance, as well as property and casualty programs, were introduced.

Also presented to the group’s major appliance, electronics and furniture dealers was a new holiday sales promotion built around New Age composer and musician Chip Davis, who records under the pseudonym Mannheim Steamroller. Davis introduced the promotion, dubbed “The Sounds and Savings of the Season,” to dealers via a 5.1 channel multimedia presentation.

Davis, who also co-created C.W. McCall, the fictional character in the country western hit “Convoy,” has a long history with consumer electronics. His first New Age album, “Fresh Aire,” was initially marketed to audio dealers, where his state-of-the-art electronic sound proved ideal for demonstrating high-end audio products. More recently, Davis has partnered with Nationwide to create a series of radio and TV spots that are provided to members at no cost.

The group also used the PrimeTime! forum to announce a series of major enhancements to its b-to-b and b-to-c Web sites. Nationwide has added a comprehensive product training program called Knowledge Surfing TV to the members-only MemberNet site. The series features 35 separate product-focused learning sessions comprised of 125 streaming video modules. Sales associates can view the programs, take certification tests online and print out certificates of achievement if they pass.

On the consumer side, Nationwide’s e-commerce site went live with a completely revamped and more flexible interface. The new site design allows shoppers to research products, locate dealers, place orders and pay online.