The announcement, which came on the eve of the $18.5 billion buying group’s biannual PrimeTime member conference in Orlando, was described as “the next phase in [Nationwide’s] long-term succession strategy.”
In a statement, Bilas said the move positions Nationwide for the “new era of retail,” and is in line with past leadership changes over a 20-year span, in which each appointment builds upon the last.
Hickman, previously merchandising executive VP, joined the group six years ago following a 16-year stint with Toshiba. Before that he was part of the sales management team at BrandsMart U.S.A., the independent South Florida big-box chain, and made his industry bones at Harbour Appliance & TV, a local family-owned business.
“I’ve observed an amazing six years of growth for Nationwide’s members, vendors and team,” Hickman said, noting that sales gains for the group’s independent appliance, electronics and home furnishings dealers continue “to outpace national chains and other independents.”
Bilas joined Nationwide as an executive VP in 2011 from GE Appliances, where he led the company’s sales organization. Over the ensuing years he was groomed for the top slot as part of a succession strategy under co-CEOs Robert Weisner and Les Kirk that also brought in Hickman, executive VP Jeff Knock, and other senior members of Nationwide’s current management team.
Hickman now assumes the reins of an $18.5 billion buying behemoth with some 5,300 member dealers and approximately 14,000 storefronts following its merger with Mega Group USA last fall.