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165: David Watt on Joining NMG and the Opportunities in Consumer Electronics

Written by Rob Stott

April 25, 2023

Less than two weeks into his tenure as Senior Director of Consumer Electronics for Nationwide Marketing Group, 20-year CE industry veteran David Watt jumps on the podcast. Beyond his introduction to the group, Watt dives into the world of CE, where he sees some opportunities for CE dealers to grow and more.


 

Rob Stott: All right, we are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast. And always love talking to new guests on the podcast, but even more special when it gets to be a new guest that’s a new member of the Nationwide Marketing Group family. Mr. David Watt, our new senior director of CE. Appreciate you jumping on and 11 days in as we sit here into your NMG tenure. So how you doing?

David Watt: I’m doing great. I’m doing great. Thanks for having me Rob.

Rob Stott: No, thanks for jumping on. Like I said, a great opportunity. Always love talking to, whether it’s members or vendors or people on the Nationwide team, but cool to get to welcome you as a almost, this is like your official indoctrination into Nationwide is when you’re on the podcast. So this is real now.

David Watt: Sure.

Rob Stott: So tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, and your path to Nationwide.

David Watt: Sure. Well first of all, thanks for having me on the podcast, Rob. This is a phenomenal opportunity, and the Nationwide members and the Nationwide folks have been really welcoming me to my 11th day on the job. So really appreciate it first off. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that.

Just a little bit about myself. Been in the industry, the consumer electronics industry, for 20 plus years. Spent most of my time on the manufacturing side, on the vendor side. So have a really good perspective in regards to what has happened and what is happening on that side of the table. So yeah, so spent 12 years with Toshiba and five years with LG and four years with TCL. So you put that a lot of timeframe together and you understand who I’ve worked for. I’ve seen the evolution of the industry happen in front of my eyes, from two televisions to flat televisions to CRT projections, to DLPs, to OLED, to transformation from analog to digital to 4K to 8K. So just seen it all. And the nice thing about it is that I’ve always had a relationship with Nationwide and they’re members in my 20 plus years of being in the industry. So really nice connection here. Really, really looking forward to what we can do together and how we can grow the membership here and our relationship.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. Now the Toshiba days, do those timelines match up when Mr. Hickman and, didn’t Mr. Reedy also spend some time at? Were you there around the same time?

David Watt: Yep, yep. We all worked together. Toshiba in some fashion during the same time that we were all there, yes, absolutely.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. That’s what I love too about this industry; all throughout it, buying group side, the manufacturing side, even the retailer side as well too, for as large of a space as it is, it feels like there’s that familiarity too. Which obviously makes it easy to work with one another and grow those relationships. And I’m sure cool for you too. I can’t imagine your Toshiba days thinking one day you’d be working with them again on the buying group side.

David Watt: Yeah. And it’s just phenomenal watching the way that Nationwide has grown over the 20 plus years. So it was primarily focused on consumer electronics and appliances 20 years ago, and look at all the different verticals that we’ve gotten into, right? Furniture, bedding, lighting, flooring, luxury appliances, and that’s just to name a few. So it’s just been really interesting watching the evolution, not just of the consumer electronics industry, but the Nationwide buying group as a whole.

Rob Stott: Yeah.

David Watt: So I think that’s pretty fascinating.

Rob Stott: What excites you most about jumping into this buying group side and being with Nationwide here? 11 days in, but what are those opportunities and being able to work on behalf of the members, those things that you’re most looking forward to about this role?

David Watt: Yeah, I think to your point, I think the evolution of the industry has always been pretty fascinating to me. Having the connection with the majority of the members in the past and having a relationship with the Nationwide buying group over the last 20 years has been just a dream for me to come work for Nationwide. But I think more importantly, its how do we embrace the evolution that continues in the industry and what’s going to happen next. Custom install integration is very big right now. There’s a lot of synergy there between the retail partners and the members. How do we integrate that into the channels? And I just think working with the members and embracing that change, and involving the consumer electronics industry is just a really big checkpoint for me and just a really big embracing point for me to help the members in that regards.

Rob Stott: No, that’s odd. And it’s funny too because you mentioned all the different verticals and even just my own background on the B2B media side, covering the CE space, I always felt like there was a lot of synergy between consumer electronics and independent retail. To your point, evolution is so fast. And not only does the tech space evolve, and really not that long a time. You mentioned the evolution from Tube TV to now we’re talking 8K and beyond, really not in the grand scheme of the industry, not that wide of a timeframe, but seeing how the CE industry evolves. And then two, you think about the last couple years and what our retailers have had to go through and how they’ve evolved, business models, and adapted to just some wild economic conditions. Everything they’ve had to gone through. So I love to see that, the way they relate, those two industries, from CE to the independent retailers. Do you see that as well?

David Watt: Yeah, absolutely. Especially over the last four years with the pandemic. We’ve really had to recreate ourselves just because the consumers, they want their products delivered in different experiences. And I think that’s still one area that the independent retailers can really grow and adapt to, is really checking and really crafting their omnichannel. So whether it’s their buy online pickup in store, whether it’s their online delivery, whether it’s their online financing, that consumer experience is really where the independent retailer can, I think, thrive from here on out. Because the big box retailers, they have a little bit more of a challenge from adapting to things like that, and their flexibility is a little taken back in that regard. So I think the independent retailer can really have that flexibility to thrive there.

Rob Stott: It’s interesting you mentioned that too, right, because I think we’re sitting here just a few days out from news; one of those big box stores, they’re cutting back significantly on their in-store presence to focus more on e-com. It gets to exactly what you’re talking about, where that retailer hasn’t been able to adapt that in-store experience yet to best suit the consumer’s needs to the way that an independent retailer might be able to.

David Watt: Correct. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that’s an area where the independent retailer can really thrive and really get a lot more eyeballs, whether it’s in-store or online.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And you kind of hit on a few I think already, but what are some of those, again, 11 days in, but I imagine your familiarity with the space, you can speak to it, the opportunities in CE for independent retailers. Where can they turn to, whether it’s trends or just things you’re seeing in the way retail happens right now, what are some of those opportunities?

David Watt: So larger screen sizes, the consumers are really adapting towards that; premium technology, a lot of the manufacturers are really focusing on whether it’s OLED, QD OLED, mini LED. So I think when you couple premium technology to larger screen sizes and then the flexibility for your independent retailers to change their diversity and the product makes that they’re currently carrying, I think that aggressiveness can really promote that independent retailer and just the independent retail channel as a whole. So I think that coupled along with the custom install and the integration part of the industry, I think there’s a lot of synergy there for the independent retailers to really thrive.

Rob Stott: Just thinking outside the box too, you mentioned the screen size. Is any of those technologies, things you’ve seen, whether it’s even concept screen technologies, that get you excited? You talk about the opportunities that independent retailers have, I think they can be those testing grounds almost for some of those concept types of technology in the high end screen space. So do any of those stand out to you, or get you excited to be able to see a little bit more up close now?

David Watt: Yeah, I think you’ll see a lot of expansion in the mini LED technology. That was a technology that was innovative by TCL, and obviously is promoted by LG and Samsung and Sony and TCL as well. So I think between that and the evolution of micro LED, and then you throw OLED in there too, I think you just got a vast assortment of products and technologies and brands that the independent retailers can really thrive upon.

Rob Stott: And what I love too is that you bring in that sort of the recent… Your career to date has been on the vendor side. So what are some of those things, a different way of thinking, that you’ve been in there and you’ve been able to see up close how independent retailers work and the things they’ve done well and frankly those that they haven’t. So what are some of those things you think, we’ll start with what they do well, what you think has gone well for independent retailers?

David Watt: I think showcasing, I think has been a really important factor that the independent retailer has been able to adopt and recreate if you would, because merchandising has always been a craft and it’s the way that we adapt that craft to the way that consumers shop nowadays. So I think the independent retailers have done a very good job in that regards. Still room for improvement there, but I think showcasing is a really big important factor for the independent retailers going forward.

And then obviously as I mentioned before, I think just the omnichannel crafting to the consumer’s experience. There’s so many consumers that expect their products delivered to them in a certain way, and if the independent retailer can’t provide that experience for them, the consumer will go somewhere else. And that’s a pretty telling sign over the last few years, that the consumers have adapted to that behavior. So I think there’s still a lot of improvement from the omnichannel side, but I think the independent retailers do a really good job with showcasing product and technology. But again, that’s an evolving structure as well inside of their store.

Rob Stott: No, I gotcha. Well, I want to change courses a little bit because we talk a lot about trends and things like that, but something that I don’t know if many people know, if they saw you at Primetime in Dallas, interesting transition period. So that was before you officially came on board. What was that experience like for you? A great way coming into a show, I know they’re with one of our partners, but to be able to get up close with a lot of the people that just a few days later you were officially part of the Nationwide team with.

David Watt: Yeah. And again, it was just a very warm welcome from the Nationwide team. I can’t express that enough. That makes the transition a lot easier, a lot more enjoyable, I’ll tell you that. But I think just being around all the independent retailers and the members, especially at a show that had record attendance, not just from the members but from the vendors as well, attending all the record NLAs and the merchandising sessions I thought was really compelling. But I think to top it off, I think the general session led by our new CEO Tom Hickman, and then obviously the interactive panel that was led by Patrick Maloney and Jan Denko, I thought that was a phenomenal icing on the cake, if you would. So I thought it was just really well attended, really well-structured, and it was just a blessing to be there.

Rob Stott: No, that’s cool. I mean too, to now see you’re part of the team and you get the inner workings of Nationwide. When you think about starting this role, and again under the auspices, you’re less than two weeks in at this point officially, but what are some of those things that you’re excited to get your hands on that you think are some cool opportunities for you to now as a part of the team to be able to tap into, whether it’s resources or things like that. Maybe you didn’t have as close an eye on necessarily on the other outside of Nationwide.

David Watt: Yeah. I think first off, just getting under the hood with the relationships with all the members, I think that is key. I think it’s key for me to develop that trust with them because I’m going to be helping lead the way in the consumer electronics industry. So developing that trust with them is going to be key right out of the gate. So I’ve already started that process and really enjoying that. But obviously fostering the relationships with our current partners and vendors and hopefully bringing some of the other manufacturers into the fold as it relates to, whether it’s custom integration or consumer electronics, there’s a lot of synergy there and I keep referencing that. So we have to make sure that we’re lock step with growing those verticals together.

Rob Stott: No, I love it. And a lot of great work ahead of you and a great team like you mentioned a number of times, great team around you to be able to accomplish the goals that you guys are setting out. You mentioned drinking from a fire hose. I don’t want to throw any more questions at you that necessarily make it harder to swallow, but it’s a fun time. I know we’re excited to have you on board and look forward to the things that you guys will be able to accomplish. Any sort of lofty goals you want to throw out and officially record on a podcast that we can turn back to in a few months time and see how we did? What do you think?

David Watt: Managing the transition is my number one goal. Obviously I have residency in Florida and I’ll be making some moves into Winston-Salem, so that’s going to be an interesting transition, just in itself.

Rob Stott: Awesome.

David Watt: But again, just embracing the team members that we have in place, managing that transition, working very closely with all the different cross-functional teams that are in the headquarters and in-remote as well, is just really going to be a fascinating, I think concept and a fascinating process for me to adhere to and really embrace. So really looking forward to it. And again, just really appreciative of the opportunity that I have with the Nationwide group.

Rob Stott: Well we’re appreciative of you for joining the team and look, like I said, look forward to seeing all the things that you and your CE team accomplish over the months and years to come.

David Watt: Really appreciate it.

Rob Stott: Appreciate you spending just a few minutes here on a podcast with us as part of this first couple of weeks here at Nationwide. So like I said, look forward to it and we’ll let you get back to work.

David Watt: Awesome. Thanks Rob.

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