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Nationwide Urges Return To Consumer Electronics

It’s an uphill climb for Nationwide Marketing Group to steer its largely majap membership back into consumer electronics, but according to president and director Ed Kelly, it will be well worth the effort.

“Consumer electronics has exploded,” he said, “and it’s crazy not to have an HD satellite offer in their stores.”

Many dealers bailed on brown goods when the bottom dropped out of direct-view TVs, Kelly explained. “They got tired of tube sets.”

As a result, Nationwide’s product mix is 60 percent white goods and only 20 percent CE, with the balance in furniture and other categories. But in today’s marketplace, where a host of new technologies is attracting an expanding high-end consumer segment, dealers owe it to themselves to reconsider CE, he said.

“Look, we’re already in the lifestyle appliance business. That’s the same customer that wants a home theater. If they’re willing to spend $50,000 to remodel the kitchen, why not do the same in home entertainment?”

To that end, Nationwide is encouraging members to hitch a ride on the CE rocket by providing all the fuel. “We have the merchandise, we have the displays, and we give them all the term sheets and training,” Kelly continued. “We’re painting a yellow brick road for them to follow.”

To further ease its members’ re-entry into electronics, the group introduced two competitively priced TV lines at last month’s PrimeTime! convention that are exclusive to Nationwide within the buying group channel. Sourced from Korea’s On International is a ProScan-branded program of LCD, plasma and DLP sets, while Soyo will provide the group with a collection of GoVideo-branded LCD and plasma TVs (see p. 4).

What’s more, last month’s show marked the PrimeTime! debut of Specialty Electronics Direct, the buying group’s new specialty A/V and custom installation division that was created in January.

Headed by industry veteran Jeannette Howe, the group was formed to provide a focus for the approximately 200 specialty CE dealers and installers that were already members of Nationwide, but had remained below the radar.

“They came to us via Warehouse Direct” — Nationwide’s 81-brand warehousing and fulfillment system — “and we had no focus on them,” said executive VP Robert Weisner.

That’s all changing under the aegis of Howe, a former Magnolia HiFi buyer, PARA employee and, most recently, membership manager of Brand Source’s Home Entertainment Source division. Since International CES, Howe has been working to bring in custom installation lines like Pioneer Elite, Hitachi, Stewart and Richard Gray; forge alliances with PARA and other resources; and provide volume pricing opportunities without huge inventory commitments.

Also on Howe’s agenda is recruitment. Indeed, Nationwide’s goal is to more than double the division’s membership to 500 qualified companies with annual sales of $2.5 million or more within the next 24 months.

“We estimate there are several thousand of these specialty dealers and custom installers out there, 750 in other groups alone,” Weisner said.