Buying group executives were in a very different mood this year than they were at the end of 2009, the last time we gathered them for an interview. For one thing, they aren't speaking during the middle of a recession that gripped the entire industry for two long years. Instead, things are finally beginning to look better for them, their members and their vendor partners, with each side showing slow but steady improvements in sales and profits. Here is their take on the retail market during the first quarter.
Dealerscope: What new products and technologies have you taken on that will drive revenue and profits for your dealers?
Dave Workman, PRO Group: I'm most excited about TV's evolutionary features. There will be a lot of energy around 3D, LED and IPTV. These will give a selling floor a lot to talk about. The growth of the Internet-connected set—the TV as the portal for downloadable content to own or rent—has very profitable implications for retailers. LED has a great "green" story and a sexy form factor. Also, there's the fact that manufacturers may be moving price-points down on some of the larger panels—60-inch and above. That will be critical for our type of retailer to drive sales and increase profits. Anything that will help consumers step up into a larger panel is going to be good for our class of trade.