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PRO’s Workman Outlines Issues Facing Group, Specialty Channel

Aside from all the discussions about Harvey Electronics’ proposed purchase of fellow Professional Retailers Organization (PRO) Group member MyerEmco, there were plenty of other issues on the minds of attendees at the organization’s spring meeting earlier this month.

Executive director Dave Workman told TWICE the group still has 18 members and that “estimated annual sales would be around $2 billion. We crested above that previously but with the reorganization at Tweeter some sales volume has come down.”

When asked if PRO is considering expansion, Workman said, “We are not on a rush drive. We don’t need to validate ourselves by having 19 or 20 members. It is more important to have the right members. Our members have been actively recruited because they bring complimentary value to the group. Where we feel there would be an additional retailer out there that could bring value we would always welcome a new member.”

But he feels that the expansion at Ken Crane’s and Sixth Avenue Electronics “and growth with our Internet retailers, one balances off against another. We are growing as a group … even with the choppy waters out there, we still think we can catch a little wind in our sails and end up with a pretty reasonable year.”

And PRO provided further details on other ventures previously announced. During International CES in January (TWICE, Jan. 22, p. 20) PRO said it would implement a supply chain initiative but didn’t mention the supplier backing it. That supplier is Panasonic and the deal will allow PRO members to interface with Panasonic’s collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) system, allowing “greater accuracy in forecasting,” Workman said in a prepared statement.

PRO also provided details on its customer-centric strategy (TWICE, April 23, p. 6) and its deal with Control4 to sell its home automation products (see for details).

Workman also discussed key issues facing the group with TWICE:

How is Tweeter’s consolidation affecting PRO?

“It would be stupid to say that our largest member is undergoing a reorganization, and it won’t have an affect whatsoever on the group. The issues around Tweeter (see story, right) are issues that both the industry needs to deal with — keeping specialty chains like Tweeter growing. I would say that it is incumbent upon [PRO] to rally behind Tweeter with the challenges they are facing in their business and help them in any way we can. I’m confident that they will find an answer. There are consumers who look for something more than a price.”

What is the major concern of the PRO Group at this meeting?

“The main concern is can we retain profitability for all channels in this business, recognizing that manufacturers have to do volume. We have to also realize that there are varying channels and that each of those channels has a position and a benefit to the consumer. But we sometimes race to zero in this industry. We just can’t rush to commoditization so quickly with everything we have to sell.”

What impact has the problems of national retailers had on the industry?

“When you are in the CE business you are not in a vacuum. There is a ripple effect. And as we look at products, when you create a solution for consumers, this industry has always been noted for products will always become commoditized but solutions don’t. I think there is more and more emphasis on the part of all retailers to come up with an end solution for consumers. Too often we are just offering a product. How do we take all this wonderful technology, bring it to consumer and make it easy to understand and easy to use? That requires a certain level of knowledge and a certain level of training you just can’t get off of a spec sheet.”