BrandSource Launches Mission-Specific Programs in VegasBy Devon Razey
Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace played host to the BrandSource 2014 Convention and Expo this week, welcoming dealers from the around the country. Attendees were met with live entertainment courtesy of Lonestar, an impeccable show floor, seminars and training programs, and even complimentary health screenings to supplement the group’s new focus on individual health. During the opening presentation, Bob Lawrence, BrandSource CEO, who will be stepping down at the end of the year, asked, “How can we expect to have a healthy company if its individuals aren’t healthy?”
According to Lawrence, the convention saw an increase in dealership attendance, indicative of the group’s growing membership. “Membership is growing,” says Lawrence. “The biggest problem [is] independent retailers closing. And it’s not just ours, it’s anybody in retail. There’s nobody to take over the business so it just closes and that is the biggest challenge for our industry… The problem is, where do you find potential [succession] candidates?”
To combat this problem, BrandSource has partnered with California State University, Fullerton. The school will offer an MBA program made up of several candidates working on their thesis entailing how to solve one of the industry’s prevalent issues.
“It’s an industry problem,” says Lawrence. “We’ll solve it for ourselves first, and then we’ll solve it for the industry.”
The group is also home to Young Professionals and Women in Business, two ventures created to help the industry as a whole.
The industry is optimistic about the year’s balance. According to Lawrence, business is expected to tick up going into the holiday season, with pressure to purchase new appliances increased with the onset of family events during the holidays. “People have company coming for Thanksgiving and they only have one burner working so it’s time to buy a new range.”
Jim Ristow, co-president and chief business officer of ProSource, a division of BrandSource, is expecting a holiday boom in UHD/4K television sales as well as OLED sets. “We’re going to be selling more 4K between now and the end of the year than we’ve shipped of 4K from when they started shipping,” Ristow says. “It’s just going to explode. And because it’s happening so quickly, our members are going to have to act quickly. because profitability is also going to be an issue.”
ProSource is excited to see that several vendor partners are viewing the group as a place to launch the new product, augmenting group members’ profit margins so they can make more margin than they could as recently as six months ago, he says. “It’s kind of a dual effect: the raising of price coupled with vendor support to give our members significantly more margin.”
The BrandSource app took center stage during the opening keynotes at the show. According to Ristow, it’s the most downloaded appliance app on the market today. It offers features, specs, features, manuals and more, all free to the consumer, which saves time and effort in-store. While consumers are more knowledgeable about the product, retailers have become more adept on the sales floor as well, thanks to the dealer-based app, which offers product research, demo training videos, sales assistance for consumers and comparison price shopping.
The most important element in moving product, according to Ristow, is the product demo. Over 70 percent of consumers who see 4K in action want it, while the majority of those who don’t see it won’t want it.
OLED 4K is ProSource’s Holy Grail, says Ristow. Going into 2015, OLED 4K will be the group’s most exciting and popular product.
Cobra Electronics Acquired by Private Equity Firm
Cobra Electronics has agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Monomoy Capital Partners II, L.P.
Monomoy has agreed to purchase all shares of Cobra's common stock at $4.30 per share in cash.
“This transaction will deliver to Cobra Electronics’ shareholders certainty of value and liquidity in the form of a cash payment immediately upon closing,” said Jim Bazet, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cobra Electronics.
“We are excited to work with Monomoy as this transaction marks the next stage in the evolution of the Cobra brand.”
Monomoy is also the owner of Cobra's rival, Escort.
CEDIA Hosting Over 400 Exhibitors, Including 150 Product Launches
CEDIA will host more than 150 exhibitors who are introducing new products at next month's CEDIA Expo in Denver, and over 400 exhibitors total.
Exhibitors will show new products in such categories as wireless audio, motion sensors, lighting solutions, TV & control mounts, and keyless entry.
A full list of product introductions can be viewed here.
“We are on the verge of a title wave of new products and CEDIA EXPO will not only be the showcase of these products but also the event that is identifying where the industry is heading,” Dave Pedigo, Senior Director of Learning & Emerging Trends, said as part of the announcement.
“We fully expect this year to be full of revolutionary product announcements. There is a lot of buzz surrounding the new home entertainment experience that combines the products from a variety of manufacturers to create a truly breath-taking end-result. Reading about these new technologies is not enough – members of our industry need to see and experience this technology first hand to understand how it will help them create a unique personal experience for their clients.”
(Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of overall CEDIA exhibitors. We regret the error.)
Amazon Fire Sales Seen as Lackluster
Amazon, as usual, has not released sales figures for its Amazon Fire smartphone, but one report says sales for the new device have been less than stellar.
The New York Post, citing online ads network Chitika, reported that Amazon sold 35,000 devices in its first 25 days after its launch in July. That's good for 0.02 percent of the smartphone market. By contrast, most iPhone releases draw millions in sales in their first few days on the market.
Steadicam Curve For GoPro Hits Retail
The Tiffen Co. announced Thursday that its Steadicam Curve For GoPro is now available both in store and online.
The product retails for $99.95.
“At Tiffen, we’re constantly striving to develop pioneering products that address the needs of the digital imaging community, which has grown and diversified exponentially in just the past few years thanks to exciting innovations from companies like GoPro,” Steve Tiffen, President and CEO, The Tiffen Company, said as part of the announcement.
“With GoPro filmmaking now at an unprecedented level, we knew we had to design a Steadicam device laser-focused on the needs of these action users. We’re excited to see Curve on shelves across the country, and look forward to viewing the never-before-possible adventure shots GoPro users create with the help of Steadicam Curve.”
At CE Week in June, Tiffen held a product demo:
Introducing Dealerscope's CE Leaders That Rock
Robert J. “Bob” Abt CEO Abt Electronics
Bob Abt is the son of David and Jewel Abt, the founders in 1936 of Abt. He entered the business in 1953 as a part-time employee, and through the years, his ingenuity and constant desire to adapt helped grow Abt into one of the most successful privately owned single-store CE/appliance retailers in the nation, with a robust, trend-setting ecommerce site started in 1997. Its 85,000-square-foot showroom, which has been called “The Bellagio of Retail,” (referring to the Las Vegas resort) features a 7,500-gallon aquarium surrounded by appliances, TV and mobile electronics.
As CEO, Abt oversees all facets of the business including the look, design and environment of Abt Electronics. Besides exhibiting a strong commitment to business ethics and impeccable customer service—a core value he has promoted and executed along with his family is environmental sustainability—the store runs an on-site center that recycles 95 percent of the waste it produces.
Abt is also involved in community outreach through the Abt Family Foundation, which is dedicated to the active support of numerous civic and community functions, charities and foundations.
Leadership Philosophy: “Like Steve Wynn in Las Vegas, my vision is to be innovative, entertain and excite people who visit our store, and strive to create the ultimate shopping experience for all of our customers.
“The company was created with the understanding that family values are our business values. We always thought that with involvement and hard work the business would continue to grow. Our reputation with customers, employees and communities over the years continues in a positive direction, and we look forward to our fourth generation succeeding in the business.
“The fear of failure drives me. Grew up as an ‘average’ kid, and felt the desire to succeed as I got older. Always been sort of a gambler, but liked having favorable odds that usually worked.
“Very proud we have never had a layoff in 78 years. Also very proud we have people of different cultures, races, religions who speak 28 languages and get along.
“Integrity, hard work, attention to detail, total customer satisfaction, not being afraid to take some risk and my having a great wife for 53 years have been essential to our success.”
& General Manager
Ingram Micro CE
Tom Bamrick is responsible for Ingram Micro CE’s sales, vendor management and creative services as well as the division’s day-to-day operations for the CE teams located in Scottsdale, Ariz. (CE divisional headquarters), Buffalo, N.Y., and Manila, The Philippines.
He joined the company in 1994, and served as Executive Director, Global Sales and East Campus, for Ingram Micro. In this position, he brought about global-supply-chain optimization for the distributor and built strategic relationships with Ingram Micro’s largest, multi-billion-dollar global partners. In addition, he held responsibility for Ingram Micro’s Buffalo campus. Supporting more than 1,400 associates, he led campus initiatives for productivity, business continuity planning, corporate social responsibility and maintaining a high-performance culture.
Bamrick’s strategic vision is the commercialization of consumer electronics. Many of the installers and manufacturers who have been a consistent presence in the consumer space are blending their technologies and skill sets into different areas that present commercial opportunities for future success in the industry. This spans into the boardroom, the office space and into small- to medium-sized businesses. Bamrick’s vision has enabled Ingram Micro to broaden into complementary markets and technologies and to diversify its offerings in the ever-changing CE industry.
“Over the past 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of an incredible journey of evolution known as the IT and CE channels. During that time, there have been so many changes in technology, and all the partners that enable that technology. That transformation is what has kept me ardently involved in this exciting industry.
“My leadership philosophy focuses on the three key principles of Work, Serve and Earn. At Ingram Micro Consumer Electronics, working collaboratively and passionately allows us to more effectively serve our partners better than anyone else in the industry, which ultimately allows us to recognize out true earning potential.
“My proudest contributions really have spanned the course of those 20 years—and being a part of the world-class Ingram Micro team. On a daily basis, we help people to realize the promise of technology! It’s really cool.”
Ron Freeman CEO AAMP of America
Ron Freeman joined AAMP of America in 1991 and served as vice president and COO, advancing the company in 1992 and 1993 to be named one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 Private Companies to Watch, before his promotion to president and CEO in 2007. He has worked in senior management positions throughout his career for numerous retail and manufacturing companies in the automotive and home audio electronics industries.
An original board member of the Mobile Electronics Retailers Association (MERA) and a board member of CEA’s Automotive Electronics Division since 2007, he is a CEA Division Executive Board member and is on the CEA Board of Industry Leaders.
He is endorsed among industry peers for his foresight in product development, go-to market strategies and multi-channel marketing.
Freeman has overseen the expansion of AAMP of America’s global footprint with a focus on service, support, marketing and logistics capabilities by growing its worldwide sales force, extending technical support hours, forging relationships with domestic and international partners, and expansion of the company’s logistics infrastructure to five facilities in the U.S. and one in Asia.
Leadership Philosophy: “I am fascinated by technology and its evolution, and have a passion for music, automobiles, electronics and people. I have been fortunate to have my interests come together at the helm of AAMP of America. Our biggest challenge is to educate people about the advancements in technology that enable them to live a connected lifestyle. As the CEO of AAMP, I find that encouraging people to think outside the box and enabling them to do so is key. Our employees, their level of commitment and service is what sets AAMP apart. As a world leader in consumer electronics technology, AAMP invests in innovation and people; I believe that is critical to its longevity and success. We are constantly pushing the envelope in terms of engineering excellence and new product development. The secret to staying ahead in this business is innovation and speed to market.”
Marketing Company of America
Since 2010, John Herrington has served as president of Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America, responsible for the U.S. sales and marketing of all Sharp’s consumer electronics products including those in the display, audio and video categories, as well as health and environment-related products.
During his time as president, he has overseen the AQUOS product line and the rapid introduction of 60-inch-and-larger-class screen size, strengthening the Sharp brand by focusing all marketing activities and re-establishing Sharp with key top-tier retailers, greatly expanding the brand’s distribution.
His efforts have helped establish Sharp as the No. 1 brand in 70-inch-and-larger TVs, the fastest-growing category in TV revenue.
He has led multiple successful U.S. picture technology introductions. In his tenure, Sharp has been the first and only brand to offer a fourth sub-pixel to its AQUOS TVs with its proprietary Quattron technology, and has introduced the world’s first THX-certified 4K TV and also the industry’s first 70-inch UHD TV. In January, Sharp launched Sharp AQUOS Q+ —the highest resolution Full HD TV.
Prior to joining Sharp, Herrington was president of U.S. sales at LG Electronics USA, and before that, spent 10 years at Amana appliances in various marketing and sales leadership roles.
Leadership Philosophy: “Put the best people in the right jobs. Focus your team around a common goal, while understanding and responding to the unique needs and interests of all customers.”
Why Still Engaged/Involved in the Industry: “The exciting products, speed of innovation and competitive environment in the CE industry make it uniquely engaging and challenging.”
Proudest Contribution to the Industry: “The industry has supported Sharp’s business philosophy that there was an unmet consumer desire for larger screen sizes. Our customers continue to help fuel demand for bigger TVs in the U.S. and have helped to make 70-inch-plus the fastest-growing and most profitable category in the LCD TV industry.”
Noel Lee Founder & Head Monster Monster Products
Noel Lee founded Monster 35 years ago with his premium audio cables, creating a new, profitable category for independent retailers and national chains alike. He repeated the feat with power products, innovating the category and making them an essential part of every home theater.
Since starting his company, Lee has put the retailer first—investing in education and helping to drive consumers to stores. His most recent accomplishment was to disrupt the headphone category when Monster launched Beats headphones, endowing the Beats line with Monster engineering and manufacturing know-how—and leveraging Monster’s relationships and proven track record with retailers to help sell-in
$300 headphones to big-box stores.
Lee is an industry icon and a leader in innovation in marketing, in product design and in helping retailers reach profitability, while changing the way consumers listen to music. He also brought live music to the International Consumer Electronics Show, sponsoring an annual CES concert featuring music legends including Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind and Fire, John Legend, Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige.
Leadership Philosophy: “Monster was founded with the mantra, ‘Always Lead, Never Follow,’ and reinforces that by constant innovation and looking at things in a different way—different than how everyone else is doing it. We revolutionized and reshaped the headphone business by creating and marketing Beats headphones.
Now we have created another innovation in sound with Pure Monster Sound, so that concept of innovation continues to guide us.
“I am proud of many things—the fact that we started trends and created categories and products that have benefited consumers and retailers such as cable, power and ScreenClean. We have continued to innovate, and have reshaped the headphone with the creation and marketing of Beats, and are now doing that in the Bluetooth speaker market with the introduction of SuperStar.
“I got into this industry because of my love of music, and following that passion helped me create the cable category. This love of music and passion for innovation has guided us for the past 35 years. Monster is made up of tech heads, to our core DNA. We love little things that make big improvements; we love engineering, and making cool stuff.
The industry has recognized Monster for creating cool stuff and helping retailers make a profit. Most importantly, it’s about innovation.”
Jim Minarik CEO, DEI Holdings
Jim Minarik has been CEO of DEI Holdings since 2001. He has held a variety of senior executive positions in industry-leading CE firms for over 25 years, and has grown and managed businesses ranging in size from pre-revenue startups to those garnering $500 million in annual revenue.
DEI Holdings is the parent company of some of the most respected brands in the consumer electronics industry—including Polk Audio, Definitive Technology and BOOM brand names. Their banner also includes consumer-branded vehicle security and remote start systems sold under the Viper, Clifford, Python, AutoStart and other brand names.
While leading these and other brands, Minarik has developed mutually beneficial relationships with retailers as well as introducing innovative home and car electronic products. His talents extend to recruiting talent into the CE business and then developing people to become major contributors. Today, while continuing as full-time CEO at DEI Holdings, Minarik also enjoys sharing some of the lessons he has learned in his career with young adults and students through university speaking engagements.
He is on the board of directors of Forte For Children (previously known as Directed Electronics and the DEI Holdings Charitable Foundation), which was established “to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged children in the communities in which we do business” in 2001. The Foundation has raised millions of dollars with the support of its own staff, corporate partners, local businesses and individual donors helpings tens of thousands of children in need.
Leadership Philosophy: “My leadership style has evolved over the years and continues to evolve today.
“But in general, the most important thing I try to focus on is making sure to set a positive tone at the top, develop with my team clear strategic and tactical goals, recruit and retain the best possible talent in each discipline, and then get out of the way and let each of our leaders and their teams ‘make magic happen.’ And the CE industry has to be among the very best, if not the best, industry to work in. After all, we make great products that make people happier, more efficient, and more able to become all that they are capable of becoming.
“I always have loved—and continue to love—to come to work every day and today, continue to love being a part of DEI and the CE industry.”
Soren Mills Chief Marketing Officer Newegg North America
Soren Mills, as CMO of Newegg North America, oversees company marketing operations and strategy. He brought experience in leading top-rate, consumer-facing ecommerce sites to this position, as well as an understanding of global ecommerce at a time when Newegg is expanding into international markets.
Prior to joining Newegg, Mills was the executive vice president and general manager at Guitar Center, where he led Musician’s Friend, the company’s online division and largest online retailer of musical instruments.
Mills has also held a variety of national and international positions at Wal-Mart. In his most recent role at Wal-Mart International, Mills was promoted to corporate officer in order to build and lead its global ecommerce services group. In that capacity, he successfully developed and launched Wal-Mart’s first global ecommerce platform, resulting in growth and profitability improvements.
Before that, Mills was responsible for marketing for the European launch of Priceline.com. As the vice president of marketing at Priceline.com Europe, Mills defined the company’s brand strategy and managed sales and marketing operations. During his time there, he helped the company achieve a significant share of the U.K. online airline ticket market.
Leadership Philosophy: “I’m fortunate to have been professionally involved in both consumer electronics and online retail at a time when both industries have symbiotically come together in a way that greatly benefits companies and consumers, alike. The kind of expansive growth that comes with tapping into new, online markets is always very exciting to manage. Achieving this growth—while staying in harmony within the constantly evolving nature of online commerce—is a very rewarding challenge to surmount.
“Before joining Newegg, my proudest achievements involve bringing trusted brands to domestic and global online marketplaces, including companies like Guitar Center, Wal-Mart International and Priceline.com.
“My team and I are passionate about growing and improving Newegg. We share common goals for the company’s future and together we’ve influenced Newegg’s recent category growth and international expansion. I’m excited about what we’ve accomplished so far and I’m enthusiastic about taking Newegg’s growth and brand messaging to the next level.”
Jim Ristow President, ProSource; Executive Vice President, BrandSource
Jim Ristow’s experience in the consumer electronics industry spans more than 25 years. He is the visionary of ProSource’s Expert Warehouse, the group’s product-fulfillment solution and a Top 10 vendor account listing alongside major national retailers. As president of ProSource, Ristow analyzes the consumer electronics industry, picks winning and losing technologies and retail trends, and advises membership on strategic solutions.
Ristow, with HES since 1999, started out as a dealer himself, establishing and growing a multi-store consumer electronics and integration company and later successfully selling the business. As a dealer, Ristow was one of the founding members of HES, serving as the group’s first president.
Leadership Philosophy: For Ristow, the CE and integration industries have always been about the people. It’s only fitting, considering 500-plus members make up ProSource, the largest CE buying group in the country. “I can’t think of another industry filled with such bright, motivated, remarkable people,” says Ristow. “It’s an industry of enthusiasts, and that’s contagious.” Lucky for Ristow, many of those people work with him at ProSource, where he says he lives by a team approach to management and corporate culture. “Together, we really do accomplish more,” says Ristow.
“This filters down from the way we run ProSource to banding together to negotiate better pricing, better volume buys, and better programs for our members.” There’s no better place to witness this camaraderie in action than at the ProSource Summit held every spring. Here, the team culture is palpable, as members and manufacturers all share best practices on how to thrive as an industry. In the last decade, Ristow has led ProSource to achieve $3.1 billion in sales, and continues to champion independent custom integrators and retailers, keeping them very relevant in today’s competitive marketplace.
Bill Stewart CEO & Founder Petra Industries
Bill Stewart founded Petra Industries in 1985. He saw an opportunity to support small-to-medium size retailers by providing high-touch service and focusing on profitable consumer electronics accessories, building Petra on a foundation of service, integrity and value—a business model that continues to allow Petra to thrive. Today Petra serves thousands retail and e-tail operations of every size, up to the nation’s largest and best-known retail giants.
Maintaining involvement in Petra’s day-to-day operations, Stewart has transitioned his primary attention to long-range planning and strategy that will ensure Petra’s growth and development.
He sits on the CEA Accessories Board and is also a member of CTIA and CEDIA, as well as the Edmond Chamber of Commerce and the
Oklahoma Business Roundtable. He is also strong supporter of the
charitablecworks of Mercy Ministries and Whiz Kids through the company’s annual charity golf tournament.
Stewart says he finds it rewarding to have successfully created a business model that efficiently connects tens of thousands of name-brand products with tens of thousands of customers across a broad variety of sales channels, effectively serving both manufacturers and the marketplace through a single portal. As the industry and markets change, Petra makes it a priority to invest in technology to continuously improve processes that exceed the needs of its business partners.
Leadership Philosophy: “Ultimately, running a business is about
people, no matter what business you’re in, and to be successful, you must cultivate relationships with a talented team working in unison with a single purpose. I believe this starts with relationships built on a foundation of trust and transparency with honest, open communication. When there’s trust and effective communication, every situation becomes an opportunity to focus on solutions that will ultimately serve the customer best.
“I’ve found that when you have the right person in the right job—a job that fits their talents and suits their personality—they’re generally happy. In my experience, happy people are not only productive, but they are also empowered to do their best, which keeps them enthusiastic. That combination of happiness and enthusiasm can then perpetuate—
almost being infectious—to other team members, creating a pleasant and very effective work environment.”
Fred Towns, President, New Age Electronics
Fred Towns joined SYNNEX in March 2008. Previously, he served as senior vice president of New Age Electronics before its acquisition
by SYNNEX Corp. With an extensive background in consumer technology, including digital photography, home theater and digital convergence, Towns was instrumental in expanding distribution partnerships
with Kodak and Panasonic and signing additional contracts with vendors such as Sharp and Samsung. He was responsible for sales, marketing and operations supporting distribution, logistics and product recovery. In addition, he was responsible for web-based training tools and ecommerce initiatives to better support vendors and retailers within the consumer technology channel. Prior to joining New Age, Towns was a senior vice president at Panasonic, where he progressed through the company in a series of senior management positions.
He is a member of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Board and currently serves as its CE industry chair.
His product-centric approach coupled with a high-level, creative marketing mentality makes for a combination that defines his leadership style. His experience in retail enables him to fully identify with the retailer, whether a store manager or buyer, and he is known in the industry for his commitment to customer advocacy and vendor relationships and an ability to make strong connections, both personally and in business.
Leadership Philosophy: “Over the course of my career, I’ve stayed readily engaged by the fast-moving, always evolving nature of the CE industry. I’m lucky to work in an industry where I can be on a constant pursuit of the next big thing and always striving for more. In all that I do, I abide by the philosophy that you should always tell the truth and remember what you said.
“My advice to my team members in all business interactions is to be brief, be brilliant and be gone. When I look back on my career in CE, I’ve been given many opportunities to contribute to the betterment of the industry. One of my proudest contributions is being involved with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has allowed me not only to give back, but to honor key CE leaders who have truly made a difference.”
Dealerscope September 2014 Issue is Online
The September 2014 issue of Dealerscope, featuring Leaders That Rock, is online and can be read here.