Sales could have been better for the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) during last year and in December, but all in all the organization's performance was pretty good given market conditions.
That is the opinion of Roger Heuberger, general manager of the specialty A/V buying group, who addressed group members and suppliers during its annual cocktail party held earlier this month at CES.
Heuberger described December 2003 as a month "that was either 10 days too long or five days too short," based on the haphazard sales pattern for the group. He also said that for the fourth quarter sales were strong, which helped the year finish with an increase of a few percent in comp sales. "Our performance during the quarter helped the year compensate for a weak second quarter. It was a good comeback."
He pointed out that 2003 was a year of change, with the PRO Group adding members. "We now have 17 retailers, the largest amount since 1985."
While the group lost Ultimate Electronics, it added Listen Up, Definitive Audio, Electronics Expo and Abt Electronics, a mix of what Heuberger called, "atypical PRO Group members" but ones who have been "as exciting for the group as anything that has happened in the past decade."
He noted that PRO was able to bring in "top-quality retailers that are integrators, retailers and bring a different perspective to our [existing] members. Everyone in the group has embraced the new members and enjoying the exchange of new ideas, since they have different approaches to the business."
Those "different approaches" are vital to the PRO Group, given the changing competitive CE marketplace, Heuberger said. With new competitors such as "Gateway, Dell and other representatives of different types of retailers are changing the business. With more emerging technologies, and a more competitors, we are embracing the help and ideas from our new members."
When asked about what the first half looks like, Heuberger candidly said, "We really don't know. December was strong in the last week and with all of the installations [group members sold] many have a three-week wait before they are completed. We don't get paid until they are, which means we have a nice jump on the New Year."
And in other PRO Group news, George Manlove of Vann's has been added to the Pro Group's board. He joins Gary McCormick of Ovation Audio Video, who continues as president of Pro Group, with Jeff Stone of Tweeter as VP/secretary, Ann Shachtman of Now! AudioVideo as VP, and Myer-Emco's Jon Myer as a board member.