By New Age Electronics President Fred Towns’ account, 2017, for the foreseeable future, is going to be about meeting growing “show me” expectations of both Millennials and female buyers – two demographics that are “more powerful than ever,” and that helped holiday sales to move forward and spike, after a slightly “slowed down” start fueled by concerns in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“All in all, there were 60 days of opportunity to buy,” he told Dealerscope in an interview during the 2017 CES. “Cyber Monday was incredibly strong. But Millennials went to stores for the experience.”
New Age’s Retailer Awards
The company used the occasion of CES, during its annual CES reception, to celebrate the achievements in 2016 of two of its exemplary retailers, naming BJ’s Wholesale Club as its Brick and Mortar Retailer of the Year and Purchasing Power as its E-commerce Retailer of the Year.
Both awards cited achievement within a set of criteria that is always a challenge to meet: year-over-year revenue growth, close executive alignment, strategic partnership, sourcing of multiple brands and a consistent positive credit standing.
Hot Categories Included Gaming, Home Control
During the Dealerscope interview, Towns provided an overview of the 2016 holiday sales season, citing several categories that were especially hot during the holidays. “Gaming products did incredibly well – Sony and Microsoft were on fire. Computer gaming has been incredibly popular; companies are pushing harder. It’s a more expensive pastime than console gaming and attracts the real enthusiasts – the next-level players. It offers so many customization possibilities, and attracts the real fine-tuners.” A corollary category he mentioned was kids gaming, whose growth in popularity “provides great educational experiences, causing STEM product sales to spike, too, this season.”
Other computer-related categories on a sales upcurve include notebook PCs – particularly Windows 10 models. “PCs are now VR (Virtual Reality)-ready for the future,” he observed. “And people are tending to buy better-quality PCs than just entry level. Encryption features and things like facial recognition are also becoming more important to consumers, as is any type of PC security.”
Home control and connectivity, as well, continue on a popularity growth trajectory – and signs abound that sales are progressing beyond entry-level do-it-yourself products, Towns said. “Buyers started with DIY products that turn on light bulbs with apps. Then, some added security cameras, A/C control, then monitoring and smart locks,” he said, with these small-scale buys eventually building up to the purchase of product ecosystems. “And what’s great” – and, what is definitely helping this trend along “is Nest, Alexa, Echo,” he said, because of their interoperability with a list of compatible devices that grew exponentially larger at CES. “It’s a cool chance for consumers to experience automation.”
Towns talked of the importance to retailers of developing unique in-store and online approaches, providing some examples of creative presentation.
One retailer, Bed Bath and Beyond, is taking the classic online bridal registry approach in a new direction, he said, with a registry for college-bound students. And Google, with its NYC SoHo outpost, is spearheading the experiential presentation of products and how they work together – a stellar example of how best to educate consumers by telling products’ stories. “The Google SoHo store is a showcase; no selling. They’re showing interoperability – learning first. People need to understand things before they buy them.”