Dealerscope magazine presents:

NATM Fall Meeting Finds Buying Group in Time of Major Transition

Howard Whitman

NATM Buying Corporation’s 2014 Annual Conference, held Sept. 17-18 in Dallas, marked a time of sweeping change for the organization.

As Bill Trawick, who has served as the group’s President and Executive Director for the past 15 years, led his final group meeting prior to his retirement at the end of 2014, the group announced that this leadership change would coincide with sweeping reorganization for the group.

NATM, which currently represents 10 leading regional CE retailers, will usher in a new era at the start of 2015, as Jerry Satoren takes on the role of Executive Director.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the changes ahead for the group.

These changes were detailed in a Sept. 17 press meeting with Trawick and Satoren.

The first change explained by Trawick was that of his old job. While Satoren will replace him as Executive Director, the President title will be assumed by former Vice President Scott Hymas. The rest of the executive board will be comprised of two vice presidents and a treasurer/secretary.

These changes were approved by the group’s membership in recent elections.

Another big change ahead: “We decided to open up membership,” Trawick said.

Previously, NATM’s bylaws specified that dealers had to do $100 million and above in annual business to qualify for membership; this requirement has been relaxed. While Trawick didn’t specify a dollar figure that will be a requirement for new members, he stated that “we’ve changed some of those rules to go out and look for new members.”

Previously, membership was limited not just due to economic factors but also to avoid bringing in dealers that competed with each other in specific areas. By loosening the sales requirements and broadening the scope of retailers who qualify, NATM can now reach out to dealers in areas previously unrepresented, as well as bringing in dealers based in larger regions that aren’t close enough to be considered direct competitors. “The people that we’re bringing in are not really our competitors,” Trawick said.

Trawick felt this change would boost NATM’s membership ranks and make the organization stronger overall, stating “I feel very, very good about opportunities moving forward for growth. … I know there are people out there who would like to join the group. I don’t think we’ll have any problems getting new members.”

In addition to changing its structure and membership requirements, the transition from Trawick to Satoren will also prompt the relocation of the group’s main office from Smithtown, N.Y. to the Dallas area. Besides being where Satoren is already based, this move to a more central location will also, in Satoren’s view, make it easier for members to travel to meetings, as Texas is at the most a three-hour flight from most parts of the country.
Trawick took a portion of this meeting to reflect on the current state of the CE industry for NATM’s members. He talked about how weather conditions, such as the relatively cool summer of 2014, could affect appliance sales as it drove down demand for air conditioners.

“Our 4k business is phenomenal,” Trawick said, citing the new TVs as a category with strong potential for NATM dealers. “If you want to make money (on TVs), that’s the only place to go.”

Trawick also cited bedding as a category that’s shown impressive growth, saying “Eight out of 10 members [carry] bedding, and our numbers are really growing rapidly.”

The home office space is another area showing promise; Trawick said sales of tablets are up.

And while Satoren represents a big change in leadership for the group—“I’ll be the first director who is not a retailer, the first who is a vendor,” he said—he predicts a smooth transition, adding “I think everyone here is comfortable with me.”

When asked about the proudest accomplishment of his 15 years of service, Trawick remarked “My proudest accomplishment is that I stayed for 15 years,” adding that he originally planned to stay in the role for only a couple of years.

Trawick commented on how CE is a totally different industry today than it was when he started with NATM, adding “The last four to five years have been tough.”

The evening concluded with a dinner in Trawick’s honor that was highlighted by tributes from John Maloney of Cowboy Maloney, incoming NATM President Scott Hymas, Satoren, NATM Director of Operations Michael Maund, and Gary Richard of P.C. Richard & Sons, as well as a heartfelt address from Trawick himself.

Amazon Debuts Two New Kindles, New Tablets

Amazon Thursday unveiled a pair of new Kindle devices- the ultra-thin $199 Kindle Voyage, and the new $79 model, known simply as "Kindle."

The products mark the 7th generation of the Kindle brand.

“Our mission with Kindle is to make the device disappear, so you can lose yourself in the author’s world,”  Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, said as part of the announcement.

 “Kindle Voyage is the next big step in this mission. With the thinnest design, highest resolution and highest contrast display, reimagined page turns, and all of the features that readers love about Kindle—books in seconds, no eyestrain or glare, readability in bright sunlight, and battery life measured in weeks, not hours—Kindle Voyage is crafted from the ground up for readers.”

On top of the new e-readers, Amazon debuted the 6-inch $99 Fire HD 6 tablet, the 7-inch, $139 Fire HD 7 tablet, and 7- and 8.9-inch Fire HDX tablets.

Harman, NBA Reach Headphone Deal

Harman International announced that it has reached a "comprehensive multiyear marketing and merchandising partnership" with the National Basketball Association (NBA.) Harman, as a result of the deal, is "the official headphone, speaker, and audio partner of the NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), NBA Development League (NBA D-League), and USA Basketball."

The deal was announced by Harman CEO Dinesh Paliwal and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“As a global leader known for creating and developing the best audio products on the market, we are honored to welcome HARMAN to the NBA family,” Silver said in a statement. “This groundbreaking partnership showcases the intersection of technology and entertainment, and provides our tech-savvy fans with another way to further connect with their favorite team and players.”

Jack Wayman Obituary Appears in New York Times

Three weeks after the death of consumer electronics industry pioneer Jack Wayman, the New York Times published a obituary Wednesday.

The obit, by Paul Vitello, described Wayman as "a sales executive who saw the future and said it was consumer electronics." It went on to note his roles in the creation of International CES, the legal battles on behalf of consumer technology, and his part in the general growth of the industry.

Read the entire obituary here.

Photo Tech: The Fix-It Shop for Digital Imaging

Nancy Klosek

A well-functioning camera is a must for professional photographers, aficionados, and prosumers everywhere. That includes the New York City region, populated with all types of camera owners – not to mention the countless tourists wandering around town with no time to wait for a weeklong turnaround on a damaged lens.  This customer pool is the raison d’être for Photo Tech, which has been doing repairs – and repairs only – since the 1950s, explained Paul Naraine, vice president of operations.

Photo Tech was started by Naraine’s father, Frank, who now runs the company’s New Jersey camera refurbishing facility while Paul minds things on the Manhattan side of the Hudson.

The New York City business just consolidated operations, which had included the Chrysler Camera Repair location on W. 34th Street across from B&H Photo Video, in a 3,100-square-foot W. 36th Street walk-in storefront and a 2,800-square-foot testing and tech service center in a building across the road.

Photo Tech receives countless referrals from locally based camera retailers with national websites, who point customers with repair issues to them for on-site repairs and for the advantage of typically quick turnarounds on more complex problems.

“We have great relationships with Adorama and B&H,” Naraine said. “The fact that all we do is repairs instills confidence.” Photo Tech doesn’t even sell imaging accessories. “We don’t want to be in competition with our retail partners,” he said.

He noted that Photo Tech is the repair facility B&H permits to participate in its quarterly Camera Checkup Days, where outside camera cleaning is offered free of charge and CCD sensor cleaning is offered at a reduced rate. And at Adorama, which is a longer walk away, there is a drop-off kiosk that takes in camera repairs and funnels them to Photo Tech for processing and later pickup at Photo Tech by the customer.

In a single year, Photo Tech’s 22 technicians and nine customer service representatives handle around 40,000 camera repairs; it stocks 95 percent of all needed repair parts in house, and ships out anywhere from 50 to 100 repaired cameras a day.

Four years ago, the company expanded into smartphone and tablet repairs, and its web site also states it offers repair services for PlayStation, Xbox and Wii consoles and data recovery services for USB drives and media cards.

But Naraine said the store prides itself on being able to provide a unique and still necessary service for camera owners in an age where smartphones’ incursions are increasingly cutting into into camera sales.

“Our motto is, if it costs more than half the value of a camera to fix that camera, we recommend buying a new one. Dealers trust us and customers trust us, and that means we both have customers for life,” Naraine said.

LG Art of the Pixel Winner is Pacific Northwest Student

LG has named John Summerson, a student at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) the winner of its The Art of the Pixel contest. Summerson was chosen from more than 3,000 entries.

Summerson was presented with the win by the campaign's ambassador, Neil Patrick Harris.

“It’s been a privilege and a thrill to be a part of the Art of the Pixel program and to support young artists and arts education,”   Harris said in a statement.

 “I thought John’s piece was particularly clever. His choice of music as well as his decision to turn vibrant watercolors into stop-motion really came alive on LG’s new Ultra HD and OLED display technologies. It just goes to show that every artist, like each work of art, is unique.”

Joseph Bui of the Pratt Institute received second prize.