In June, several members of the Nationwide Marketing Group team hit the road and traveled to four different cities to get face-to-face with Independent retailers in their own backyards. Nationwide’s Summer swing of the Regional Member Meeting tour made stops in Minneapolis, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Indianapolis, with each event giving dealers in those respective markets the opportunity to connect with their group and with one another for some education and networking.
The one-day events were packed with roundtable-style discussions, several presentations and countless hours of idea sharing. Along the way, Members had the chance to hear directly from Nationwide’s business leaders across several functional categories who addressed everything from digital strategy to in-store merchandising tactics and everything in between.
“I loved the way that the sharing took place,” says Mike Whitaker, general manager of Nationwide PrimeMedia, who was present at each stop of the tour. “There are very few retail problems that a room full of Independent dealers can’t come together and find a best practice or a solution for. But the ones that they can’t find that solution, well, that’s what the group’s about. So, there were some spots where they challenged us to go find those solutions. That’s really what these meetings were about for us. We had a lot of sharing going on. We did a lot listening, to hear what’s really happening out on the front lines right now.”
Over the course of the four stops and several weeks of travel, all of that sharing brought to light a few takeaways about not just the Regional Member Meetings themselves, but what’s happening in Independent retail. So, let’s dive into some of them.
The Post-Pandemic Market is Here
It didn’t matter what city you happened to be in during this stretch of meetings, the one message that resonated among all attendees was that the retail landscape is shifting — again. Many retailers will be happy to hear that the pandemic era of retail appears to be firmly in our rearview mirror.
That’s great, but it also presents a new set of unique challenges for Independent dealers.
“Over the past two, three years, if you had product in stock, you could pretty well sell it,” says Whitaker. “All you had to do was have inventory and folks were coming out and they were buying with very, very little shopping actually happening. We’re seeing from those dealers, their feedback was very clear. That’s shifting. We’re getting back into that world where we have to compete to get the shopper’s attention. We have to compete to bring the shopper back into our stores.”
So, while lead times may be down on getting product (for the most part), dealers are noticing the need to reinvigorate their marketing efforts — if they happened to take their eye off that ball during the pandemic. And the proof is in the pudding with marketing efforts among Nationwide Members. Dealers that were engaged with Retailer Web Services, have a Level 4 website and were hooked up with AdRocket saw business bump up 10 percent year-over-year. Those that weren’t? Down 2 percent.
The Disconnect with Delivery and Installation
At the risk of being named the new Captain Obvious, the regional meetings showed just how challenging the labor market is right now. We certainly are living in an era where the power is in the hands of the job seeker, not the employer. One area in particular that Independent retailers are struggling is on the delivery and installation side of the business.
“We live in a world where you can go work at a fast food joint and make $18-$22 an hour,” Whitaker says. “When we turned around and asked Members what they offer their delivery teams, we heard things like $12 or $15 an hour, starting out. So, you’re saying, as a potential hire, I can get that rate to lift heavy appliances and furniture all day out in the heat, the cold, the rain. Or, I can go flip burgers and dunk fries and make a few bucks more than that. Where would you go?”
What the regional meetings also showed is that, for many retailers, the opportunity exists to pay their delivery teams better and not impact their bottom line. And it all comes down to those delivery and installation fees. Regardless of location, discussions with Members showed a major disconnect in the thinking around how much to charge consumers for those services.
“There were two distinct camps when it came to delivery,” Whitaker says. “There were some folks who were convinced to their core, they had to give it away at a very, very, very low price or for nothing at all. And then there were others across the room who were charging a flat rate of $179. I walked away from these meetings convinced if you’re charging less than $129, $139 for delivery, you’re leaving money on the table. Dealers are not getting pushback from shoppers.”
Retailers provide a tremendous service to the customer when it comes to moving those bulky, heavy pieces of furniture and appliances. The customer has zero desire to do that work themselves, and they’re willing to pay for it. The service itself just needs to be marketed in the right way.
The wrong way to do it? Overexplaining why your fees seem high. No one wants to hear about your per-mile gas surcharges. Everyone is paying higher gas prices right now. Instead, dealers who’ve had success in this area have built value around the service itself, explaining how careful their delivery teams are and how they’ll haul away their old appliances.
If you missed out on the summer swing of Regional Member Meetings, Nationwide will hit the road again this Fall. Keep an eye on the NMG Blog for those dates and more information. And, just like our PrimeTime show, these regional stops are absolutely free to attend for Members of Nationwide Marketing Group.