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What They're Thinking : Dave Robison, CEO of DSI Distributing, Part 1

December 1, 2010 By Dave Robison (as told to Janet Pinkerton)
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Dealerscope is resurrecting "What They're Thinking," a series of interviews/conversations with CE industry execs currently making headlines. Please feel free to offer suggestions of any industry executive that you think would generate an interest interview. Janet Pinkerton spoke to DSI's Dave Robision, who recently made news with his video in support of independent CE dealers. In this portion, Robison talks about his early days in the business and how the industry has changed. Stay tuned next Wednesday for the second half, in which Robison expresses his views on the big-box chains and the current state of the industry.

My father and I started the business 25 years ago. For the first five years I was the only employee. I was 25. Started by going door-to-door in rural Iowa with a trailer behind a pickup truck, pulling an 11-foot diamond-shaped satellite dish, offering a free overnight trial of a C-band satellite system.

I'd dig the hole by hand, mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow, dig the trench with a shovel and install the whole system start to finish.

We were in the retail business for three, four years and then landed a large furniture store selling our satellite systems. When that ramped up, we migrated from retail into distribution of C-band satellite. We moved to Dallas with a second location. My brother Doug joined us, coming out of the University of Iowa. I ran Des Moines; he was running Dallas. That was when things were a little more fun and a little more simple.

We now have 350 employees and have been in business 25 years. The last five years have been explosive. The DIRECTV business is just on fire. With HD and DLP, flat panel, LCD, plasma, LED; it's been a dream.

But the last 12 months have been tough, and Walmart is a part of that. Margins are compressed. The glimmer is off HD and off flat panel. It's becoming more like a regular TV business again, like when we distributed RCA televisions.

Walmart has been getting aggressive for the last year or so in the television business, challenging Best Buy for the No. 1 market share. Best Buy's reacting and that drives all the large independents into survival mode, and they're reacting. An all-out price war has evolved in the TV business. Manufacturers have to maximize their production lines, so they are forced to go after their part of the market share.

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