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Wayman’s Reflections On CES

September 2, 2014
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In the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the Consumer Electronics Show in 2007, the late Jack Wayman, CES founder, who passed away last week at 92, offered – with characteristic candor – his reflections on the Show and his part in its creation to Dealerscope’s Nancy Klosek. Here are his comments:

“Here’s how it started. I’d been with the Electronic Industries Association (EIA), since 1962. It had been the Radio Manufacturers Association, begun in 1922; when our first product, radio, came to market, the association was born. There was the Radio Show. It was held in Chicago, and it showed the latest Philco, RCA and Zenith radios.  That stopped, though, in 1939, just before the War. 

“Afterwards, the distribution pattern changed in our business. There were middlemen in the major manufacturers, and they had distributors, and the manufacturers sold to the middlemen. So the dealers never really interfaced with the manufacturer – he could never show his products to the retailers. The distributors would buy the product and the goods would change hands, and they would have their own local shows in every community. There were roughly 70 distributors in the U.S. for each brand. So there wasn’t any need for a show.

“Until I joined, I was with RCA 10 years before that, out of Washington. I was a distributor, and headed distribution in six states, and before that I was in retailing for five years – so I grew up in the business. 

“Then, RCA asked me to build the association for consumer electronics. It has become a parts association, and there really was no formal entity for what we know as consumer electronics.        

“So I joined it in ’62 in Washington, where I lived, and we began to build the association.  It was known as the Home Entertainment section of EIA.

“There was a musical instruments show in Chicago since the 1880s, and our people started showing at that show. The Japanese  – Panasonic, Sony and Hitachi – were just making their beachhead here in the States, mainly with transistor radios; not with TVs, yet. And then, color television started to take off here. In 1964, that was the point at which the first million sets sold was reached, which was a threshold of success. So there was a need for expanded distribution. The Japanese wanted to show their goods; they had no distribution system, and then even the Americans needed a trade show because they wanted color to take off; they wanted to show color television directly to the dealers.  Also, retailers – who were all regional then – wanted to interface with manufacturers and buy direct. 


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