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Retailers: Hard Work Ahead

LAS VEGAS – Retailers at TWICE’s annual CES Retail Roundtable stressed the importance of remaining alert and working hard to maintain the growth they saw in 2000, in the face of a possible economic downturn.

“It’s foolish to look at 2001 and not take a little more conservative approach,” said Dave Workman, president of Ultimate Electronics. “It’s going to take work.”

Panelists included Workman, CE VP Chris Payne, Best Buy executive VP Mike Linton, senior VP Frank Sadowski, Good Guys president Ken Weller, RadioShack president Dave Edmondson, Tweeter senior VP Shelley Miller, MARTA executive director Warren Mann and NPD Intelect analyst Jim Hirschberg. TWICE senior editor Alan Wolf moderated the event.

Naming digital televisions, personal video recorders, digital cameras and digital camcorders as high-selling items, the retailers said they finished 2000’s holiday selling season with impressive results.

“We did really well in high-end television,” Weller said. “Our December month was actually better than October and November. We delivered literally thousands of them in the last two weeks of December.”

Hirschberg added that “anything cassette-based tanked. VCRs are moving [out], giving way to DVD. The CD player was one of the losers, while the CD-recorder was one of the biggest sellers. So, it’s sort of trading off old technologies for new.”

Though all of the retailers pointed to positive sales results, they said it was not an easy feat. “I think there was a sense out there [in the industry] that it wasn’t a natural win,” Workman said, referring to the various companies’ sales reports. “I think we worked harder for that win” than in past holiday seasons.

Some of the challenges the panel members mentioned were striving for better manufacturer relations, lessening consumer confusion regarding emerging technologies with various formats, and keeping high-quality salespeople.

With every retailer on the panel having a website, the general attitude toward the Internet’s role in the consumer electronics retail scene has changed since last year. Even the brick & mortar players said they were working to integrate their sites with their stores and pointed to the Internet’s influence in creating more educated consumers.

“This is the crossover year for the Internet where it [will] go from being a novelty to being accepted,” said Sadowski.

A complete report on the roundtable will appear in the next issue of TWICE.