February 2020 Letter from Our Chief Member Advocate

Written by Tom Hickman

February 3, 2020

I’ll be honest — it’s somewhat difficult to believe that it’s actually 2020.

Last year went by in a blink of the eye, and I have to remind myself on occasion that our last PrimeTime gathering occurred six months ago. Sometimes it feels like just a few weeks since we were in New Orleans together. And, sometimes, it feels like several years.

But that’s just the pace that defines our industry these days — non-stop. And, even with all the talk of a trade war dominating the airwaves in 2019, it was still a pretty good year for the Independent channel. Especially for the Members of Nationwide Marketing Group.

Let’s take a look back at some of what we accomplished together in 2019.

  • As a group, we came together during the Nationwide Week of Giving in November to pack more than 300,000 meals for hungry kids across the country. And your efforts helped us achieve a historic milestone, as our group packed its 1,000,000th meal in support of No Child Hungry. The generosity of the Nationwide network knows no bounds, and I am humbled to be part of such an inspiring community.
  • We launched our exclusive partnership with AT&T in February, giving you the opportunity to expand your category offerings and attract more customers by offering a product that touches almost every aspect of daily life. But this program is about so much more than just cell phones; there’s also wireless plans, tablets, wearables, home internet and DIRECTV. More than 225 Members have already signed up to become authorized AT&T retailers, and the numbers speak for themselves, with double-digit foot traffic increases and $100,000s paid out to Members since the program began.
  • Speaking of growth, Nationwide Members opened nearly 300 new locations in 2019. I’m not talking about new group Members, although we happily welcomed scores of new retailers to the Nationwide fold in 2019. These are new locations opened by existing Members, proving that the Independent retail channel is alive and thriving.
  • Finally, we introduced Nationwide Connected Home, the industry’s first and only connected home division designed exclusively for the Independent channel. This groundbreaking initiative builds on our exclusive relationships with AT&T, Nest Labs and Google to help solve the issues stifling more widespread adoption of connected home offerings. The industry is poised to start making serious headway on connectivity, and no one is better positioned to convert on that than the Independent retailer.

But even with all the gains we saw last year, this one will likely be more successful.

“But it’s an election year,” you’re probably saying. “And election years are always chaotic.” True. But, putting politics aside for a moment, there are several factors that cause me to be optimistic:

  • The trade difficulties that have troubled the nation look like they’re about to end. Trade talks have recently resumed between the United States and China, and while it has the potential to linger through the summer, I believe the tariff uncertainty will be resolved before the election. Irrespective of the terms, a signed trade deal will bring much-needed stability to both the manufacturing and retail industries.
  • After several years of watching and waiting, it looks like Sears will take its final breaths in 2020. The iconic retailer has closed all but about
  • 100 or so of its stores and ended 2019 by selling off its legacy DieHard brand to Advance Auto Parts. These last stores were Sears’ most profitable, so their shuttering will create a
    serious vacuum in the retail landscape — and a powerful opportunity for Independent retailers to gain market share.
  • American economics are strong. Interest rates are still historically low, as is unemployment. And housing starts are still performing well. These are typically all positive indicators for our industry.

So, what’s coming down the pike?

I can’t say it more plainly — we expect 2020 to be HUGE. We have a serious outdoor event planned for PrimeTime in Houston, complete with grilling stations and live music, and outdoor will continue to be a big part of our business moving forward. You can learn more about our outdoor initiative, including some tips and tricks for outdoor sales success from Orsini’s Appliance Sales & Service.

We’re also going to be hyper-focused on Member experience in 2020. And that starts in Houston.

We’re expanding our Retail Sales Analytics (RSA) and Point of Sale (POS) programs to make sure you’ve got the business intelligence you need to help your store succeed against Big Box retailers in today’s hypercompetitive economy.

We’ll also be announcing more details about our Executive Leadership Summits, which will be held in several cities across the United States in 2020.

Finally, as you may have heard, we’ve expanded our team to create a dedicated Member experience department. I invite you to connect with Melissa Stenson, our vice president of Member experience, either at PrimeTime or when you return to your store, to share your questions, concerns and insights on how we can best be of service to you.

Plus, our communications team is getting ready to debut a new section on our website — the Media Center — dedicated to telling YOUR stories. This site will be filled with blog articles, podcasts, videos and more, and will put the spotlight where it so rightfully belongs — on our membership. For a preview of what to expect on this new page, check out the profiles of Mrs. G Appliances, Royal Flooring and Webb’s Home Store.

It’s going to be a wild ride, but I fully expect our Members will not just do well in 2020 – they will thrive.

But that only happens if we work together. So, as we kick off 2020 and our Houston PrimeTime event, I would like to encourage you to lean into us. Share with us your challenges and successes, and let us know what we can do to be most helpful to you.

The Nationwide team stands ready to serve. Please reach out to any of us or to me directly at tom.hickman@nationwidegroup.org or 321-258-5678.


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