Shapiro and Fry Talk Retail at CEA Line Shows

CEA leadership discusses showrooming, e-fairness and holiday expectations

CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro and Fry’s Electronics President Randy Fry chatted about showrooming, “e-fairness,” and the hot products for this holiday season, to kick off the CEA Line Shows Digital Downtown Conference.

As President of Fry’s Electronics, a retailer with a national footprint and a strong California presence, Randy Fry was able to provide valuable insight into the issues facing retailers and how the leadership of the CEA is facing those issues, in the Executive One-on-One.

Showrooming is a huge concern and one of the buzzwords of the year. Retailers with a physical presence are forced to collect sales tax, while Internet sales tax goes unenforced. As a result, many consumers visit stores to try out products only to make the final purchase from an online vendor. Fry believes educating consumers and Congress is the key to delivering an efairness solution. A current bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act empowers states to collect sales tax that is already their right to collect.

When Shapiro asked Fry whether he would “buy,” “sell” or “hold” a number of different products, Fry was optimistic about each, particularly digital imaging as consumers have so many options for putting images online. Fry believes this holiday season, DSLRs, tablets, ultrabooks, and Sleekbooks are products that will do well — unless Apple comes out with a brand new product.

Audio and headphones are a category that has exploded as consumers have become more interested in hearing the detail in audio. High-resolution audio is a category Fry believes will continue to grow as bit rates improve.

Fry was excited about the future of HDTV’s with 4K resolution, but it’s not a category that will be ready this year. The higher resolution displays will let us sit closer to the TV, said Fry, allowing larger TV’s to be sold. Right now we can cut 220 inch TVs from a sheet of glass, and eventually that’s what retailers will be selling to consumers.

Fry is also excited about home control, he sees it as the future, but there is still a ways to go to make it intuitive for the end users. He’s impressed with Nest’s ability to learn a user’s habits. What he’d really like is to see into his refrigerator from his phone and know what to buy. As the category becomes more useful

Automotive is a category that is facing legislation to combat distracted driving, but advances in collision-avoidance and self-driving vehicles may mitigate the need for legislation and could help open up the possibilities of the category.

Electronics retailers are facing challenges, and showrooming remains a concern, but the CEA is working with Washington DC, and there is a lot of optimism that new technologies are opening up product categories that will drive profits.

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