The New Kid in Town
When you think about buying groups in the world of home electronics installation and retailing, the Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), Home Entertainment Source (HES) and the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) spring to mind.
Recently, however, Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN) has made a strong push to join those familiar names. The group has grown to over 400 members since it began a little more than a year ago.
SEN has some serious backing; it’s the specialty consumer electronics division under the Nationwide Marketing Group umbrella, and Nationwide just happens to be the largest buying group in the industry. Nationwide, which has served independent appliance, electronics and furniture dealers for over 30 years, boasts 2,800 dealer members, 7,500 storefronts and over $12 billion in buying power. SEN is evolving out of that huge Nationwide family.
“We saw the explosion of the custom business during the past few years and realized we needed to address the unique and special needs of the dealers in that business with a dedicated team and programs targeted specifically to them,” says Nationwide Director Robert Weisner.
“We are business partners with our dealers,” says SEN Executive Director Jeannette Howe. “Nationwide has years and years of experience, and we capitalize on the group’s knowledge, their resources and their expertise.”
Networking and educational perks
SEN members need only have “physical presences” in their marketplaces. Members include hybrids that offer both retail sales and custom installation services, appointment-only showroom dealers and custom installation integrators in office parks.
The primary goal of the organization is to develop specialty electronics vendor alliances that will provide enhanced margin opportunities and help ensure the future viability of its members. Its secondary goals include creating marketing initiatives, training programs, industry alliances, inventory fulfillment models and other member benefits.
“We want to build a group that isn’t just about getting the lowest price, although that is important too,” says Howe. “We want to help our dealers learn and earn. We offer 24/7 education, both in selling skills and product knowledge, through our MemberNet intranet portal. We have partnered with Helen Heneveld at Bedrock Learning to ensure that our members have the professionalism they need to be successful.”
SEN members get to enjoy Nationwide’s two annual PrimeTime! gatherings. “I go to CEDIA, CES and PARA every year, but none of them are as good as the Nationwide PrimeTime! show was last month in Orlando,” says John Price, owner of Sound Systems in Charlotte, N.C. “It was definitely the most successful show I’ve ever been to. I got a lot of business done, made some good contacts and got great ideas about moving my store forward.” Price, who was one of SEN’s first members, was particularly impressed with the PrimeTime! University classes on e-commerce and store display. The next Nationwide PrimeTime! event is at The Venetian in Las Vegas from August 19 to 22.
Buying group, distributor or both?
SEN has negotiated programs with manufacturers like LG Electronics, Control4, Integra, Klipsch, Tributaries Cable, D-Tools, Chief Manufacturing and Sanus Systems that enable its members to buy products at better than factory-direct pricing, says Howe. These programs can include additional DFIs (discounts from invoice), rebates, SPAs, display programs, extended terms and other benefits. When using these programs, members buy directly from the manufacturer but earn deeper discounts than they could otherwise.
Like HES with its Expert Warehouse, SEN has a program that allows it to serve as much like a distributor as a buying group to its members. SEN’s Warehouse Direct program, the organization says, provides a solution for dealers who no longer meet their vendors’ ever-rising minimum purchase requirements. SEN has partnered with several distribution companies so members can purchase specialty and custom products like Pioneer Elite or Hitachi Director’s Series through Warehouse Direct at competitive prices. SEN has 48 Warehouse Direct warehouses across the country, and claims most members will receive inventory within 48 hours of placing an order. An online ordering system is available as well.
“We support our dealers in all of their endeavors, from purchasing to hiring to training to improving the way they go to market,” says Howe. “We provide services to our members that few could individually afford. Together, though, we can pool our purchasing power to reduce their costs and improve their profits.
“I want our members to know they’re not alone. We’re here to make sure that they have the tools they need to grow their businesses.” CR