But other retailers, both privately held regional and local operations, are making a profit today. The reason is that unlike Sears, Kmart, and for that matter hhgregg and RadioShack, they took on new technologies that they could explain, sell and install, learned digital marketing, improved their logistics, emphasized profitable sales and supplier partnerships, and embraced new demographics, realizing that millennials are turning to local retailers after researching home products online.
Ironically for years independents embraced the Sears model of expert sales people, selection and the ability to deliver and/or install products, some sprinkling in Kmart’s traditional price-driven merchandise into their mix to be competitive and garner traffic. Best Buy’s Founder Dick Schulze said when his chain was expanding nationwide that he wanted it to become “the next generation’s Sears” for home products.
Best Buy is thriving again because it revamped its operations, improved its online sales efforts, and embraced new technologies in electronics and appliances. And most independents are now part of national buying groups, which provide product pricing as good as national chains or ecommerce sites receive and often require the organizations that join to provide logistical and distribution support; educational seminars – whether it’s about new technologies or digital marketing; online resources to build, update and maintain sites and check SEO performance and provide video content for their sites.
Two of the country’s largest electronics/appliance buying groups – in terms of membership and buying power – are AVB, with 4,500 members and $17 billion in volume, and Nationwide Marketing Group, with 3,500 members and $15 billion in annual volume. Each group has its own specialty electronics division, AVB’s ProSource and Home Technology Specialists Nationwide (HTSN) with Nationwide.
Independent retailers have improved their operations and have the buying clout, when combined with fellow local and regional dealers in buying groups like these, to be national players in electronics and appliance retailing.
A decade ago independents benefited when Circuit City exited the major appliance business and dropped
its commissioned sales force. By the time it closed, independents picked up electronics market share also. But most of its volume eventually found its way to national chains.
Independent retailers will not make that mistake again. They along with Amazon, Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot are poised to take Sears Holdings’ market share, as well as the volume that RadioShack and hhgregg have left on the table.
More importantly, with the improved operations of independent electronics and appliance retailers, this channel can be a major player in the connected home as IoT developments emerge and become embraced by consumers.
i3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.