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Nationwide's PrimeTime show draws 5,000 to Las Vegas

 At the Nationwide Marketing Group PrimeTime show are Tim Donk, left, and Jim Cherry, Legends Furniture; Don Hunter, Med-Lift; and Mike Herschel, Furniture Marketing Group.At the Nationwide Marketing Group PrimeTime show are Tim Donk, left, and Jim Cherry, Legends Furniture; Don Hunter, Med-Lift; and Mike Herschel, Furniture Marketing Group.

LAS VEGAS — Nationwide Marketing Group broke its attendance record at its recent PrimeTime show here, while continuing to roll out new programs for its expanding base of dealer members.

The March 3-6 show at The Venetian resort and attached Sands Expo and Convention Center drew about 5,000 people. That included more than 1,200 furniture, electronics and appliance dealer members and about 185 supplier partners - its best ever vendor participation, said Nationwide CEO Robert Weisner.

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The furniture, electronics and appliances buying group also upped the size of its show floor to 325,000 square feet, compared with a more typical 225,000- to 240,000-square-foot space.

It also was the first time Canada's Cantrex Nationwide - now a division of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Nationwide - participated in a big way, bringing about 40 suppliers and a large contingent of buyers. Nationwide acquired Cantrex from Sears Canada in May 2012, solidifying its position as North America's largest home furnishings buying group.

"We feel it's a great time for independents," said Dave Bilas, Nationwide executive vice president. He said big box retailers such as Best Buy have been stumbling, paving the way for market share growth by smaller players.

In addition, Nationwide - which has been encouraging its electronics and appliance-only retailers to add bedding and furniture take advantage of better margins - sees room for growth in the furniture category, which accounted for about a quarter of its members' estimated $14 billion in 2012 sales.

About 1,600 of the group's 3,500 members carry furniture in more than 3,000 stores, said Bill Bazemore, the group's vice president of furniture. Indeed, before main event, the group devoted a day to a Nationwide Furniture Summit, featuring presentations from industry analyst Jerry Epperson, managing director of Mann, Armistead & Epperson, and Furniture/Today Executive Editor and bedding expert David Perry, among others.

Among the 52 furniture vendors at PrimeTime was Lane Furniture, showing with the group for the first time. It had become a vendor partner just weeks before the show.

"We're pleasantly surprised by the amount of enthusiasm we're seeing," said Dan Masters, Lane president. He called the opening day "fabulous," with the company garnering at least a dozen new accounts by noon.

Longtime Nationwide suppler Ashley Furniture also drew a large number of dealers. Kerry Lebensburger, the company's president of sales, said he was impressed with the attendance and dealers' open-to-buy.

"Normally, there are a lot of (electronics and appliance) retailers looking to see if they should be in the furniture business," he said. "This time it's people already in the business. This is turning out to be a very powerful show."

"So far, it has been phenomenal. We've seen a lot of our existing customers, but also a lot of new customers," said Len Burke, vice president of marketing for Klaussner, which rolled out a Klaussner Solutions Studio program at the previous PrimeTime show in August.

 

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Burke said that program was continuing to do well here, with the strongest volume in the smaller, sub-category studio formats, such as spaces dedicated to Klaussner's sleeper program or home theater offering.

Nationwide officials also offered a sneak peek at the group's revamped MemberNet website, its main communications tool for members, with information and updates on everything from volume rebates to vendor programs to sales training and marketing materials.

Among other things, the update will make it easier to access the system by mobile device when in launches in April. Nationwide said it's also is planning a mobile version of MemberNet, but declined to be specific on the timing.

In a related move, the buying group rolled out a new Info-Pad tablet with the goal of arming everyone at the sales level with a tool they can used to help close sales by keeping consumers in the store.

The tablet - a Toshiba Excite 10 - will be loaded with product information in all categories, including comparisons and coordinating products, reviews and video feature demonstrations. Salespeople and consumers also will be able to do price comparisons with competitors - making showrooming a transparent practice and keeping it in-store where retailers can respond quickly, officials said.

Salespeople also will be able to access product training programs from the tablets and train from them during slow times.

The program will be available on both Android and Apple tablets. However, supplier partners have chipped in to enable Nationwide to offer the Toshiba Excite at a reduced price - about $195 each.

"The reception has been off the ranch," said Jeff Knock, Nationwide senior vice president of appliances. He said the group was still tallying sales, but had distributed about 1,500 tablets during the PrimeTime launch.

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