TWICE Roundtable: Retailers Hang Hopes On Connectivity

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Retail executives participating in the annual TWICE Retail Roundtable at International CES pointed out the unbalanced course sales took during the holiday selling season along with giving insight into a wide variety of topics.

The discussion, moderated by TWICE senior editor Alan Wolf, was wide-ranging, but several salient points were brought into focus.

Although tablets, headphones, audio and smartphones were dollar and unit leaders, more commoditized categories like TVs and digital cameras were down, the panel acknowledged.

“When we looked at the balance of everything, the ups could not offset the downs,” said Dave Workman, executive director/COO of the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group).

On the positive side, lower profile categories like headphones and all-inone PCs did very well. Headphones in particular experienced sales of $300 million during the holidays, primarily due to the products becoming a fashion statement, noted NPD Group’s industry analysis VP Stephen Baker.

Fred Towns, president of New Age Electronics, said headphones are making audio exciting again particularly branded models.

The panel pointed out the importance of social media in connecting with customers and the importance mobile shopping apps now play.

eBay’s senior director/chief electronics merchant Noah Herschman said mobile gross merchandise volume more than doubled on Black Friday and Cyber Monday when compared to 2010, and PayPal’s total mobile payment volume on both days increased six-fold over the prior-year period.

Best Buy U.S. president Mike Vitelli agreed that mobile apps are important tools. “You have to be where the customer is going to be,” he said.

There was also a general consensus that educating consumers on the benefits of connecting devices to a smart TV is one of the few hopes the industry has to boost flagging TV sales. Jim Ristow, executive VP of the BrandSource and Home Entertainment Source (HES) buying groups, said his member dealers are experimenting with demo areas that show the possibilities available with today’s products. These initial efforts have been successful and the program will be expanded.

Complete coverage of the TWICE Retail Roundtable will be appear in the Feb. 27th issue.


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