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A Toast To the 2013 Dealerscope Hall of Fame

January 2013
This year’s Hall of Fame celebrates respected veterans who have battled the ups and downs of the CE industry and emerged as market leaders. They are survivors who continue to enter the fray each day in search of a new business opportunity, a way to improve the customer experience or find a new strategy that will enhance a partnership.

All of them have changed their businesses to adjust with the times.
Rick Souder, executive vice president of merchandising at Crutchfield, summed up one rule our inductees have followed along the way. And it’s one that grows more important each day.

“You have to differentiate or die. If you just keep chasing price and want to sell it by the pound, I don’t think anybody survives doing that,” he said. “At the same time, there are many retailers today that have been around 20, 30 or 40 years because they’ve picked out a different niche. It’s not all about moving boxes, it’s about how can I add more value for customers, how can I help the customers whether it’s before or after the sale.” 

Geoffrey Lewis, founder of WYNIT, knows something about differentiating services and niches. To help his retailer customers better fulfill their online sales, the distributor made huge investments in its infrastructure to ship single products to thousands of consumers. It was a major transition, but it was one the company had to make. “I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for how well we’ve navigated that transition,” Lewis said. “And we continue to upgrade.”

Eliott Peck, senior vice president at Canon U.S.A., said his boss, Canon U.S.A. CEO Joe Adachi, constantly urges the team to think differently and respond proactively to consumers’ needs. The strategy works. The team heavily relied on consumer input and feedback to create the acclaimed Cinema EOS line. “It really is a change of culture,” Peck said, about tapping different conduits to create new business.

A similar strategy helped Jim Wohlford launch Sanus. When he was working as a salesman at the Sound Center back in the early ‘80s, he listened to customer complaints about the poor quality of speaker stands. He hit the garage and built a far superior product. A few years later, when dealers complained about having to buy a separate mounting bracket for each model of plasma TV they sold, Wohlford turned around and created a universal mounting bracket, an immediate industry standard.

All of our inductees have embraced new technologies and have worked hard to overcome the challenges they present. Sometimes Elly Valas, member services director at Nationwide Marketing Group and one of Dealerscope’s star columnists, wishes the pace of change would just slow down a bit, but she knows it won’t. Instead, she’ll continue to help dealers leverage it.

“I hope I can continue to be able to adapt (technology), adopt it, understand it. I hope the technology changes, like the smart grid and smart appliances, make real changes in our lives, like cell phones,” she said. “I hope these technologies will translate into medical advances and big-picture breakthroughs.”

We’re sure our future Hall of Fame inductees will be among those who help to foster those breakthroughs. Until then, congratulations to this year’s inductees.

 

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