NATM dealers gathered here last week for the group’s annual conference said they are defying the weak economy by reining in costs, entering new businesses and opening additional stores.
At least four of the buying group’s regional chains are expanding their turf this year and next. Among them:
, which plans to open as many as seven new stores in 2012, including some in new adjacent markets;
, which opened a former Circuit City in July and built out an existing location to 20,000 square feet;
, which is re-opening a department store in Central New Jersey; and
, which is also opening in a former Circuit City site.
Video Only president Peter Edwards told TWICE he is seeking a 12-volt specialist to sublease space in the new store, whose square footage exceeds the typical footprint of the now 15-store chain. Edwards decried falling margins within his core TV category, which force him to move more units and attachments to remain profitable, and pointed to Apple as proof of success in CE without price cuts.
For brothers Abe and Sam Yazdian of Electronic Express, promoting is a necessary evil to stay competitive amid national accounts and recent newcomer hhgregg. “It’s a tough environment but we have a few vendors who are working with us closely,” Sam said. The 19-store Tennessee chain is winning through tighter inventory management, entering new categories like computers and appliances, offering a better assortment of fully featured products and, when necessary, matching online prices.
“Margins may not be as good as they used to be, but 90 percent of consumers are still employed and they are buying,” added Abe.
New categories are also keeping business humming at TWICE retail award winner Abt Electronics (see p. 18), which recently added electric generators, sump pumps, HVAC systems and fitness equipment to its offerings. “We’re always looking for ways to drive traffic and create new business,” copresident Billy Abt told TWICE.
The new entries, along with hot-selling smartphones, tablets and d-SLR cameras, are compensating for weakness in GPS and declining TV prices. “We’re dying for the next new display technology,” said merchandising chief Phil Hannon. “It’s the first time in a long time that there’s nothing to bring up price points.”