New Age's Towns on the Holidays, the Economy, Uncertainty and MoreAugust 10, 2012 By Stephen Silver
New Age Electronics president Fred Towns recently sat down with Dealerscope at the company's Dealer Summit in Chicago. Towns discussed a variety of topics, from the mood of the industry to the performance of the retail channel to what to expect this holiday season.
DS: What are some of the most important new dealer programs, incentives, services that you have rolled out to your retail customers in the last six months?
FT: Probably the most exciting thing is the set of services that we bring. When a customer or retailer would buy a tablet from us, we would engage them in concierge programs, so that they could go to their customer and say 'for this limited time period, if you have any questions about the tablet you bought, let us help you out with it.' Sometimes you go to Middle America and somebody says, 'Well, do I need to buy that Wi-Fi thing, because it says its Wi-Fi-enabled,' but they didn't understand that Wi-Fi has to be activated in the house. As much as we all take for granted, there are still parts of the U.S. that don't understand those technologies, and the concierge service made that much better.
We also looked at our ability to deliver product on a timely basis to our customers, and that is relying on two areas: forecast and service-level agreements to enable that customer to get a great experience. When they use us as a fulfillment agent, the experience is very good. So we did a lot of drop-ship programs, which increased the ROI for our customers. At the end of the day they made a lot more money because they never touched the goods.
DS: We've gotten a lot of mixed signals on the performance of the CE retail channel in the last six months. What's your take?
FT: Many consumers were being very judicious about where they were going to spend their dollars until they had a better understanding of the economy's health. So we were hit with a very soft summer and spring. There has been a lot of consumption (of tablets and other hot products) already in the marketplace. To drive the consumer to go out and spend, there has to be some compelling reason, and this year there were no major announcements. But as we get into the fall - with Windows 8, the cross-pollination of platforms, devices that interact with each other and have touch capabilities - I think we'll have some excitement. We are looking at new channels for products: children and education are very interesting targets for our customers and vendors to focus on.