In Part V of our Retail Executive Roundtable, held annually during CES, we concluded our conversation by polling our participants on what they think will be the hot topics for this year.
For more topics of interest, visit:
Part I, in which participants shared Q4 results, can be found here.
Part II, with discussions of selling the smart home, is here.
Part III, which explores the current hiring market, is here.
Part IV, which discusses 5G, is here.
TWICE: What will be the breakout products or catalysts for 2019? What product or technology will have the largest effect on your business?
Michael D. McMahon, national retail, direct2consumer & distribution strategy, Sprint: We’ll have a 5G device announced to come out second half of 2019, but I think it will be a continuation of those products that are more mainstream. We’re beginning to see an explosion of growth in connected car devices and plus-one devices with our base of 30-some-odd million customers. They’re now taking advantage of alternate technologies or adding a new connected device.
Stephanie Keough, chief merchant, World Wide Stereo: I don’t necessarily know that it’s breakout. As leaders in the industry, we’re always ahead. We’re having conversations about 5G and 8K. For the end consumer, they’ll wrap their arms more around AI, voice control. The mainstream end consumer is not there yet. They may have a product or two, but it will broaden within the home.
Doug Wrede, VP of merchandising, CE, Nationwide Marketing Group: No silver bullet in our category either. I think 8K and connected home will be growth opportunities for 2019.
Stephen Baker, tech industry analyst, The NPD Group: I agree that while there are huge growth opportunities, there’s also a little bit of risk in the explosion in computer gaming, video games, streaming, Twitch, sports. There’s a huge amount of things going on there. It impacts a lot of different categories. I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of the impact.
Keough: There’s a new demographic for targeting in that industry.
Baker: Gaming is changing within society as well. There’s a college degree in gaming. They have 15,000 people going to watch eSports. Some of us older people don’t understand all these things, but it is a game-changer.
Keough: It is. We’re having gaming events now to showcase you don’t have to put on headphones to have that experience. You should have a gaming experience in your home theater.
Debbie Schaeffer, principal, Mrs. G TV & Appliances: This is going to be in home appliances, mostly kitchen. I think this will bring the consumer back into the kitchen to cook. There is integration with companies like Yummly. Whirlpool bought Yummly, and it is involved with other appliance brands. GE just partnered with Hestan Cue. These are all to make the consumer successful in the kitchen so they enjoy cooking. I think that will be a big play this year, as well as for the industry — this is the year for the replacement.
2004 was a big year for appliances. Now we’re in the 16th year of buying cycle when appliance sales were the biggest they were in the world and this will be the year of replacement.
Trevor May, executive director, vendor management, D&H Distributing: Representing D&H as a national distributor and our breadth of products, manufacturers, and customers, the hot products that come out next year will be in a key position to support that growth and our partners who want to buy those products from us.