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Nationwide Taps HTSA For Added CI Oomph

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For the Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG), 2015 has been the year for closing the gap with its chief rival in two critical areas.

The industry’s No. 1 buying group, representing $15 billion in retail revenue, has long held the highground in marketing, advertising and digital signage thanks to PrimeMedia, its sophisticated in-house production facility that provides custom TV spots and instore content to members.

But the confederation for majap, CE and home furnishings dealers had been playing catch-up with No. 2 dealer organization BrandSource in distribution/logistics and specialty A/V, thanks to the latter’s national Expert Warehouse program with Ingram Micro, and the incorporation and eventual melding of the industryleading PRO Group into its own custom install division, Home Entertainment Source (HES).

To remedy the latter and address Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), its rudderless specialty A/V division, NMG reached out to custom integration (CI) group Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) and formed a third buying organization.

The new joint entity, Home Technology Specialists of Nationwide (HTSN), supplants SEN and will share resources and members of both merchandising organizations.

Recently named SEN director Hank Alexander will continue to lead HTSN in the same role.

The strategic alliance, announced last month at HTSA’s annual Spring Conference, allows both groups to “maximize and leverage their individual strengths, while working cooperatively to increase member benefits, bolster vendor relationships and amplify synergies in marketing, demand generation and other services,” the new partners said.

Most important, the pact also better positions the groups to drive the connected-home business, and to make it more approachable for Nationwide’s rank-andfile TV and appliance dealers. As Nationwide executive VP Jeff Knock noted, “The connected home is not a product you can buy on a shelf.”

Specifically, the alliance gives HTSA members — comprised of A/V specialty retailers and custom integrators — access to Nationwide’s sophisticated marketing, advertising and digital signage services, and major appliance merchandising programs.

In turn, the new group can leverage HTSA’s custominstall vendor base, and aim for parity with the $4.6 billion ProSource.

“It’s rare to find such a unique opportunity in which members from both organizations are able to leverage the strengths of the other in order to capture the most available share in this space,” said Tom Hickman, Nationwide’s senior electronics VP. “These complementing benefits showcase just how powerful this alliance will be for our retailers.”

Added HTSA managing director Bob Hana, “HTSA has always been a thought leader and trailblazer when it comes to taking progressive actions that enable our membership to grow and flourish. … We see immense opportunity here to offer a more complete, connected home solution spanning everything from home entertainment, security and control to comfort, convenience and connected appliances. Together with Nationwide Marketing Group, we are uniquely aligned to address the evolving needs of the CE industry and a new class of tech-hungry consumers.”

Meanwhile, on the distribution front, Nationwide unveiled in March eXchange, a distributor buying portal located on the group’s dealer intranet site. A year in the making, the platform provides easy access to bestselling SKUs from top CE brands, as offered through seven distributor partners including AVAD, CED, Capitol, D&H, DSI Systems and Petra.

The program was developed by former Expert Warehouse exec Dean Sottile, who serves as distribution logistics senior VP at Nationwide. Five weeks following its positively-received debut, eXchange has doubled its brand roster to nearly 200 badges, and is preparing to add two more distributors to the portal by the end of this summer, Sottile said.

The purchasing platform is currently providing member dealers with access to over 4,000 CE SKUs, and the program could eventually encompass a dozen distributors and include additional product categories like appliances and furniture, Sottile noted.

“We have a long-term vision for the eXchange, and we intend to grow this initiative in even bigger ways,” he said.