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PRO’s Manlove Calls for Industry ‘Transformation’

May 13, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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One overarching theme that came out of last week’s PRO Group Spring meeting was articulated by PRO’s chairman of the board, Vann’s CEO and president George Manlove.  In a broad-spectrum, statistics-filled presentation, Manlove made the case that short-term, reactive measures are longer enough.

Manlove cited Best Buy’s recent woes as worrisome for the industry. “The largest and most prominent retailer is struggling,” he said. “I don’t want them to struggle.  I want them to survive and prosper,” he said. “It’s important for us to have somebody of significance in the industry to help anchor some stability.” Amazon and marketplaces in general have changed the face of CE, he said – along with Apple. “We allowed Apple to silently absorb full control of this industry,” in the last few years, “while we were in the midst of celebrating our success at flat-panel sales and making lots of money.”
Of the specialists populating the room, Manlove said, “We’ve all already right-sized our businesses. We’re at the point where minor change is no longer sufficient. We have to transform our industry.”

The changes need to come on both the manufacturing and the retailing sides, he said. On the issue of pricing dynamics, he pointed to the “struggle with pricing integrity across channels,” noting that pricing policies tend to benefit unauthorized distribution. Dynamic pricing (different prices charged to different consumer groups) and price-check mobile apps contribute to pricing erosion, which “dilutes everyone’s brand, sucking life from 25 or 50 years spent building those brands.” 

Manlove also noted the government’s predictions that ecommerce would compound in growth through 2014 at the rate of at least 15 percent, and that mobile as a distribution channel, just three percent of commerce this year, would at least double in the next four years.

“How can we deal with that? We have to figure it out. And if we don’t, we’ve just handed a company in Cupertino or Mountain View, Calif., the business on a silver platter.”

Manlove told dealers, “We have to do business with customers on their terms, not ours. If they want to do business online, use a mobile app, go to an event, go to our Facebook page, we want to be there. If you remove any one of those touchpoints, that’s a problem.”

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