TWICE: What is the current state of retail and what are the prospects for the holiday season vs. last year?
Fred Towns, New Age Electronics: Although it's been a sluggish economy this year, consumers are benefitting greatly from the pricing model being adopted by many manufacturers and retailers this season.
There is tremendous competition around price points. From big-box retailers to smaller independents, all are offering up the latest and greatest at an exceptional value. Customers are stretching the dollar on entry- and midlevel products with high value. Compared to last year's holiday, we'll see increases in LCD, plasma and LED TV technologies.
Doug Robison, DSI Systems: Retail is tougher this year. Business is brisk, but it is tougher for the independent retailer to make the margins he was making a year ago. We are seeing unit sales up considerably, but unfortunately the average sale price is down considerably.
I look for this to continue into the holidays. There is a lot of pressure from the national and large regional accounts [which are] driving pricing down to maintain share. The independent has to keep inventory levels low to avoid getting burnt from price erosion, which is why they are turning more toward distribution. They are using our warehouse as their warehouse, saving their capital for their showroom display.
Wally Whinna, AVAD: Retailers are working hard to anniversary last year's numbers. We are seeing more aggressive pricing at retail and anticipate that trend carrying on through the fourth quarter.
Rob Eby, D&H Distributing: E-tailing is particularly strong. If you consider retail and e-tail together, then we see good projections for Q4. Last year at this time is when things started declining and people were cutting back, but things have stabilized at this point. So, yes, we're looking forward to people spending money this year.
Mark Gustavson, WYNIT: Expectations for the 2009 holiday buying season have been formulated withserious focus throughout the retail channel. After the disasters of 2008, significant attention has been applied to all aspects of SKU selection, pricing and product availability by both retailers and manufacturers. Everyone expects an improvement over last year. The question remains, how much and in what areas?
Mark Feinberg, ADI: Business has been steady since the summer. Dealers appear to have hit their low mark and are starting to pull [up]. An increasing number of dealers have been expanding their areas of expertise to offer more services to each customer. We are optimistic for the holiday season as consumers are putting more technology into their homes and continue to have systems installed.
David Kaplan, DDG: Our typical customer is the independent custom integrator. They continue to tell us there are fewer new jobs, and they have to fight harder to get them. We've worked with our dealers to target their previous clients with upgrades and new technology, such as affordable wireless lighting control and energy management [that can be retrofitted]. As a result, DDG members experienced solid sales in the spring and summer months, indicating that unlike December 2008, we expect to see modest growth during this year's holiday season.
Bill Stewart, PETRA: Regardless of the news stories and predictions of having a slow start to the holiday shopping season, we are encouraging retailers to stock up early because when the season gears up, hot sellers will go very quickly and will be hard to keep in stock. Our same-day shipping, free three-day upgrades and no-minimum order will be a huge tool during this time, but the reality is that retailers can't be caught without stock on their shelves during the busiest time of the year.