In the Spotlight: Gary Shapiro
Dealerscope: One of this year’s CE Hall of Fame honorees, Bjorn Dybdahl, is a CE specialty dealer who forged a reputation as one of the great industry evangelists and an educator of new technologies. Do you think the role of specialty dealers can be preserved, despite all of the challenges they face?
Shapiro: Definitely, ecommerce has made it more challenging, and it’s a new form of competition for everyone, but 30 years ago, the big thing was catalog showrooms, and they scared the heck out of everyone. And there were the department stores that were going to kill everyone. There’s always something new that’s going to come on and threaten something old; that’s what our industry is about. Half of my career has been spent fighting the old industries.
For instance, there’s the fight on Capitol Hill now between Pandora and the radio industry. Pandora is paying half their revenue to royalties; radio broadcasters pay zero, so they’re trying to preserve paying nothing and they want the new guys to pay a lot. That’s who we are, and what we do.
One challenge is the Internet sales tax issue; that’s something we’ve worked on for over a year. And that could be voted on in this Congress.
I still think, with things like Ultra HD, which I am passionate about, that it won’t be a huge Internet product, at least not for a while. The specialty dealer has to show how that works and introduce people to it. You can’t get a sense of what it is unless you physically see it. It’s big, and it should be installed, and there’s a service opportunity for this new technology. There are the Bjorns, and there’s Cowboy Maloney’s in Mississippi, and people like Dan Pidgeon at Starpower. He has this gorgeous place in Dallas and is tearing it down and renovating it to build something better. And Michael Pope of Audio Video Interiors in Cleveland, who showed me what he’s done in partnering with others who design wine cellars and kitchens to create a great experience area, a space where you’re even able to play golf electronically. And there was just an LG Ultra HD event at California’s Video & Audio Center, where the lines were out the door.
The opportunity for independent dealers is still there. You’re not going to get that golf system or Ultra HD television at the beginning unless you see it demonstrated. The point is that there are pockets of excellence all around; I’d love to meet more of these dealers and have them engage more with CEA, but one challenge we face is that because they are so stretched for time, we have trouble engaging them.
And we have our Retailer Council. One of the things I’m proud of is we’ve expanded to open up to retailers, to small companies, and to all sorts of different industries.
The CES tent is always large and we have a whole bunch of principals. And even if you disagree with someone, as we often do in Washington, you still invite them to speak, and be on our panels and present their views. Though we might be fiercely fighting and debating them in Washington, we’re always polite. You can still have a debate and be civil.