John Riddle, a two-decade veteran of Maytag, who joined Philips Consumer Electronics in April as its retail sales VP, is no stranger to the consumer electronics business.
For much of his professional career Riddle worked at Maytag, where he was involved in retail sales in several positions for 19 of the 21 years he spent with the manufacturer. He has a unique perspective on electronics/ appliance retailing since he grew up in the business. And his family continues to run Riddle's Appliance, a local electronics/ appliance retailer in York, Pa.
Riddle took some time during the recent Nationwide buying group meeting here (see TWICE, August 20, p. 1), where the company announced a new strategic partnership with the group, to discuss the similarities and differences between the consumer electronics and major appliance businesses from his unique vantage point.
"There are plenty of similarities," Riddle noted, for regardless of industry, retailers need "good logistics, strong profits, products that draw traffic, national advertising and support." As for manufacturers, they need to market their brands "to be different in the marketplace," he said.
Unfortunately both industries have the same problem. "The commodity model in both areas are unfortunately a syndrome," Riddle said. On the whole he added, "There are more similarities than differences between the two."
But there are still "glaring differences," as Riddle put it. "Consumer electronics is a more fast moving [industry] due to the drive toward high tech. The R&D investment is overwhelming." For instance, Riddle pointed out that 7.3 percent of Philips' $38 billion in sales goes to R&D.
However he noted that during the last five or six years Maytag and other major appliance vendors have begun to develop "more innovative products" than ever before. And the industry is now "thinking ahead about the digitizing of the home."
During his last two years at Maytag, Riddle worked in the home builders market, an industry where major appliance and consumer electronics makers "are trying to create the house of tomorrow. Partnerships between electronics, appliance and the home building industries" will create home networking systems, Riddle said.
With his retailing background, and knowledge of the appliance and the electronics businesses, Riddle is in a unique position to move Philips to the next technological revolution.
As for the short term, namely second half retail sales, Riddle said he is "cautiously optimistic. Nationwide, retailers we have spoken with are positive about the second half." And as for Philips, he said, "The steps we take with new products and new distribution partners should provide us with a bright future."