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TWICE Roundtable: Retailers Hang Hopes On Connectivity


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.