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New Age's Towns on Tablets, Showrooming and Best Buy

August 14, 2012 By Stephen Silver
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New Age Electronics president Fred Towns sat for an exclusive interview with Dealerscope during the distributor's Dealer Summit in Chicago on August 9. This is part two of the interview; see part one here.

Q: So far this year, which specific categories are selling well?

A: I think the "stepped-up PC" product is selling well. The unfortunate thing about the web and shopping engines is that it takes the product down to a price point. When the consumer understands where the technology is going, and people are buying for the intended future, and where that product will evolve for 3-5 years down the road.

People are looking for PCs [that are] thin or light, solid state drives, faster boot-up times and either always-on or instant-on.

Q: In terms of tablets, I remember last year tablets were everything. Are tablets selling, which of them are the hottest sellers, and are any of them competing against the iPad.

A: Actually, many of them are competing against the iPad. At the end of the day, Apple's got an incredible formula that's worked for them, along with their content story. And I think as certain technologies are evolving- the new tablets with the Google capability are very hot for us right now. The Nexus product has been screaming hot, which is a change. The world is about how you're using these products and what you're using them for, and receiving content.

Tablets are also evolving with different shapes and sizes. The female customers have been very excited about some of the smaller-sized tablets that enable them to drop them into a purse easily.

Q: On the subject of showrooming, what do you think dealers can do to combat that problem?

A: I think it's about experience today. Number one, you have to have a complete solution, because convenience and time are so critical. And if you've been able to woo a customer to come into your store than the experience should be really good in that store about shouldn't be just about making a sale, but walking out with a solution to what they were trying to accomplish when they walked into that store.

So more and more you'll see hands-on experience in the store, and how to use that product. I think the role of retailer will be how to guide that consumer in, and see how they're going to use that [product,] from a usability standpoint.

Q: The other thing that's been in the news is Best Buy, with all the turmoil the company has had with executives, its struggles and more the possible takeover. What do you think about what's happened with that, and are you rooting for Best Buy to succeed?

A: I think it would be horrible for the industry if Best Buy left the industry. We're big fans of a companies like Best Buy that go out there and represents a wide array of products, for the vendor community and give a good example of retail.

Retail has evolved, and when you look today at content, it's gone more to a downloadable type-thing. So now of course Best Buy is trying to evolve and change their store plans and meet the need of where that product is going.

I think it would be bad for the industry to lose that many retail opportunities, to view product. And it would be bad for retail to not know there's a hands-on experience.

Q: Someone in one of the panels this morning brought up the idea of uncertainty, in regards to the election, and you're hearing that a lot in the business world in general, that we're not going to know what's going on [economically] until we know who the president is going to be. Do you feel that is something that's a consensus?

A: I think most of the people that have been in this industry for many years know that an election year has people nervous, no matter what industry you're in. Our product has gone away from luxury and more into necessity items. And if your necessity item breaks, you're going to go get a new one.

I think when people are making big purchases, they want to know that the country is doing okay. And things like gas prices, I think, are even scarier. Because through history, no matter who's been in office, it seems that as technology evolves, there's compelling reason to how that's going to make it exciting in your life, or improve the quality of your life and enable you to do things you couldn't do before.

I think [politics] comes into play a certain way, but it comes way more into play when you look at the job market drop.


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