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SED Changes At The Top As Its Business Grows

TUCKER, GA. — SED International,
the 30-year old distributor of CE,
computers, small appliances and cellular
products in the U.S. and Latin America,
has undergone several changes at the top
as its business expands.

Starting at the top, Jonathan Elster, a 15-
year veteran of SED and its president/COO,
was named president/CEO right around
this year’s International CES, succeeding
company co-founder Jeanie Diamond, who
retired in December. He was also recently
elected to the company’s board.

Since then, Elster and SED has made it
a mission to “upgrade our management,” as
it told TWICE last week for the challenges
and opportunities that are emerging.
In February, SED hired Daniel Greenlee
as domestic sales VP; he was previously
sales VP at DBL Distributing. Elster
said that Greenlee is not only an
expert in CE and IT, “he is an expert on
call centers. We need to grow our customer
base and work closer with them to
take us to the next level.”

Last week, SED announced the hiring
of Jim Overwyk as operations VP, a
30-year operations and customer-service
veteran; he will oversee the distributor’s
U.S. operations and the implementation
of new initiatives.

Elster noted, “Jim has both IT and HR
experience. With very thin margins, operations
is a critical area nowadays. We
have to be very lean and efficient to take
the company to the next level. Our business
is growing. What is especially critical
is making drop ships for our dealers.
Jim is an expert in this field.”

When asked if SED will make more
additions to its management staff, Elster
noted, “We have an excellent management
team, but we will upgrade if the
opportunity arises. Our No. 1 goal is servicing
both retailers and suppliers.”

And SED has an experienced and longtenured
staff. It has 200 employees in the
U.S. and another 160 or so in its operations
in Argentina and Columbia. “Tenure
is important. Relationships are key in
this business. I have been here 15 years
and we have employees who have been
here 10, 15 or 20 years. We must sustain
and build profitability for our customers
and shareholders, and that’s what we do
on a daily basis,” Elster said.

To become more profitable and grow its business, Elster said that SED is presenting
“broader … stronger lines” of
products from existing suppliers rather
than adding lines just for the sake of adding
them. “We have to give our suppliers
a full commitment. If we can’t, there is no
reason to talk.”

SED has had double-digit growth
in computer products and 156 percent
growth in CE year on year, with the
latter achievement based on “TVs, of
course, but we are looking to sell more
accessories — more mounts, cables and
sell more digital cameras.”

And SED is also looking at offering
their retail customers more inventory
management, reverse logistics and warranties,
Elster said.

The “driving force” for its business
lately has been “netbooks and laptops, as
well as LED TVs from Samsung and LG.
Handheld camcorders like Flip have been
strong for us for the ‘Dads and Grads’
season coming up,” Elster said. “The ereader
category with products from Audiovox
and others, as well as digital cameras
from familiar names like Polaroid,
have been important.”

On new technologies, Elster said that
there is “a buzz about 3D TV with everyone
talking about it … vendors, retailers
and consumers. It might be bigger
than expected” and that buzz should
bring “more consumers to retail stores
to see demonstrations. More traffic always

As for the iPad, while SED is not an
Apple distributor, “it too will create a
buzz, and we’ll probably sell some accessories
for iPad.” During the summer
and the fourth quarter, Elster
sees Mobile TV as driving the business
with new offerings in the category
set to debut.

But with a sluggish economy to say the
least, is there enough business out there
for independent and regional retailers?
Elster said that when you look at those
dealers, “they are surviving in tough
times. They are selling bigger TVs and
selling product vs. selling on price. We
partner with the Nationwide Marketing
Group and we had a very successful show
with them.”

He stressed that independents are
making “value-added sales,” and that
SED is still on the lookout for them to
“get involved in new categories.” Maybe
for some it might be small appliances,
which is part of SED’s line and which
carries product from Panasonic, among

Making value-added sales and looking
to carry new categories are more critical
than ever given the ongoing market share
battle between Best Buy and Walmart,
which can take down regional and independent

Elster’s view is that manufacturers are
“providing independents with different
models and derivative SKUs [in certain
cases] to offer value-added opportunities.
For the most part, they have done a good
job in trying to control the situation.”

But for SED and Elster’s management
team, the bottom line is still the same, no
matter the changing marketplace — “to
support our customers and bring them
new opportunities and solutions for their