35: Talking with Element Electronics About Their Expansion Into Home Appliances with Nationwide

Written by Rob Stott

August 18, 2020

Element Electronics Co-president Vlad Kazhdan jumps onto the Independent Thinking Podcast to talk about the brand’s move into the home appliance industry. Element and Nationwide Marketing Group have partnered to roll out a new line of Element appliances exclusively for Nationwide dealers.

Rob Stott: All right, we’re back on the Independent Thinking Podcast. Incredibly excited right now to have on a guy that has been part of a really awesome partnership here for Nationwide, Mr. Vlad Kazhdan, Co-President of Element Electronics. Appreciate you, first of all, taking the time out of your day and coming in and chatting with us.

Vlad Kazhdan: I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me.

Rob Stott: Yeah, you bet. So, let’s start there. The partnership with Nationwide, it’s huge news. I know, like I said, a lot of work has gone into it. So tell us a little bit about it, what Nationwide members can expect and what’s going on here?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, so first off, Element’s really been around since 2007 and we’ve sold tens of millions of televisions and other consumer electronics products around the country. We are now starting an appliance line, and we’re really excited to bring that to Nationwide. We’ve been working with the leadership team at Nationwide with Derek and with the whole client’s team there, talking about what we could do together to grow the Element brand, right? What we could do in terms of expanding our footprint into independent channels and to the Nationwide members.

The appliance team was talking about the fact that there’s an amazing gap and amazing hole to fill in appliances. With all of the relationships that we have and the many relationships that we’ve built over the years, we’re able to bring in great appliances, great quality at a really great accessible cost to everybody. It’s just going to be a really great symbiotic relationship for the members, because, in a time where it’s COVID and it’s hard to get some of these products across the water, we’re able to supply these products right now at a great cost, at a great value, great appliances. We’re actually able to get our hands on them, and the Nationwide members will actually be able to have them in their stores come this holiday.

Rob Stott: That right there might be the most exciting part for a lot of these guys, is that in talking to members on this podcast and just in general, I know one of the biggest things, especially when you’re talking to appliance dealers, is access to inventory, it’s been tough to come by right now. So I know hearing that come from you, I’m sure that’s got to be a little bit exciting for them to hear. But specifically with the appliances that you guys are going to have with this partnership, I know it’s launching with just a couple. So, tell us a little bit about what members will expect as far as what’s available right at the outset here.

Vlad Kazhdan: Absolutely. So we’re starting off with a full range of chest freezers, so five, seven, nines, and 14 chest freezers, we also have 18 cubic foot top mounts in black, white, and stainless. So those are going to be the first products that we launch with, but quickly following, we’re going to have a full line of refrigerations, adding a 26, adding a standup chest freezer, so we’re going to have a bigger line of refrigeration. Then later to come, so next year, we’re actually going to be adding ranges, we’re going to be adding hoods, we’re going to be adding dishwashers. Because the point of Element is always going to be a total home solution, right?

So again, why is this partnership really important to us? It’s to be able to bring a home solution to the Nationwide members, and so we’re going to be expanding into those types of products. Then actually in 2022, we’re going to be adding laundry as well. So, expanding out of the kitchen into the laundry room. So expect a whole solution from us, starting with refrigeration and moving into ranges, dishwashers, and even going into laundry.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. I know, thinking back to Houston … well, were you there in Houston with us for PrimeTime?

Vlad Kazhdan: Unfortunately, my wife was pregnant at that time, so-

Rob Stott: Well, congratulations. That’s not unfortunate, let’s just say that.

Vlad Kazhdan: We have now a four-month-old son, so my wife was pregnant, so she asked me to stay home at that time. But I’m really excited to go to the shows after COVID when we actually all meet in-person. That’s really exciting.

Rob Stott: Oh, we got you. But I bring that up, because I know that it may be a little known fact to some, but there were some Element appliances there to look at, and I got to tell you, they were, I mean, beautiful product, really high quality, really cool to see in-person. So, I can only imagine what they look like on members’ show floors and in their showrooms and ultimately customers’ homes.

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, Element is built on being a high-quality brand with price points that are accessible to everyone. I repeat that all the time, but we truly believe it, right? When we bring new products to market, we want to make sure that they’re high quality, they’re going to stay in a person’s home. We’re not going to have any warranty issues, we’re not going to have any issues serving the customer and having them be repeat customers.

We’re really people and customer-focused. That’s been one of the things that we stand on, customer service, making sure that the customer service, and also making sure that the dealer service, right? Putting you guys first, making sure that you guys have quick responses, making sure that if there’s any problems, we have a team right here, we’re in Minneapolis, that’s going to be able to handle all of those things for you.

So if you think about the Element brand, if I had a way to phrase it, it’s high-quality product, accessible to everybody, people-focused, customer-focused, and we also have roots in the United States, right? So we’re an American company, our CEO is from here and we actually assemble televisions here in Winnsboro, South Carolina. So we also do that, so we’re the only ones doing that as well.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. You talk about the commitment and what you’re doing to help dealers. What is it that attracted you to the independent channel and wanting to work with, I say with this bunch, this whole group of Nationwide folks and the members that we got here?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, so the relationships that we have that we’ve built over the years with Derek and with Patrick, we’ve known those guys for a long time and they came to us with a solution to ask us, “Hey, can you guys come with us for a solution for appliances?” When we looked at that opportunity, we were able to expand our brand from where we are today into the appliance category with independent retailers that we can focus on you guys. It was a no-brainer, we were really excited to do it.

Again in this time when there is a shortage, if we can supply you guys and build the loyalty that we hope we can build, it’s really exciting. The opportunities are endless, starting with appliances, moving into different categories as time moves on, as the Element brand grows, as Element becomes the total home solution, there’s nowhere better than to have an independent channel and you guys helping us do that. It’s an assistant sales floor, right? So being able to talk about the brand, being able to talk about what we do and being able to explain the product, which we don’t get in other channels, is also truly important to us.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. I was going to ask a follow-up question. What is it, do you think, about this channel that lends itself to helping this partnership grow, first of all, and then just be successful in general in an age where people are trying to shop fast and whatnot, but still there is that need for the close touch of an independent person that can provide that next level of service?

Vlad Kazhdan: That’s absolutely right. So if you’re a brand like Element that has huge marketers, so we’ve sold tens of millions of units of televisions in the United States, but newer to a different category. Having a salesperson, an independent salesperson that explains our brand and explains the quality and explains the warranty process and explains what the brand represents is truly important, because that would help people get over the edge of trusting the brand, right, and giving it a shot in their home for the appliance category.

Rob Stott: Yeah, that’s awesome. Talk about that expansion. We’ve not so subtly hinted here, this is an entirely new category for Element. You’ve got, I know, a name that has recognition in the TV space, but how does a brand like Element, where you’ve been focused on TVs and other products too, but how do you expand into such a new category like appliances and what’s that move been like for you?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, again, we’ve worked with so many different suppliers, with so many different people over the years. Also, our roots, our CEO, Michael O’Shaughnessy, he’s from the appliance industry, right, so he used to work in appliances. The guys that we are working with here, we built a team of experienced appliance people, so we have the roots to build that out.

So, we’ve been around for now 13 years selling televisions and expanding our footprint all across the United States, appliances is just the next solution to become the total home strategy of accessible products in America, right? So, it’s just the next evolution of what we’re doing.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. If you were talking to a salesperson, someone in one of our stores that’ll be pitching these appliances to customers, what’s your advice, or how would you talk to them as far as what they should be saying to customers about this type of product?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, I think talking to the customer about the high quality of the product, right? Comparing it against others and making sure that they understand that this is a high-quality product at a great cost, that has the features that they’re looking for, that has the options that they would want in a fridge at first, and then other products as we move forward.

I’ll also say that we have worked directly with the Nationwide members. Just to go backwards a little bit, we have worked with them to make sure that they get the features that they think are important, right? We’ve been talking to the Brand Builder Council about what are the features that they think are important to add into our products, and we’ve been incorporating those as well as we go. So we’ve been listening, we want to make sure that the product is right for the Nationwide members, for your customers, and we think we’ve done a great job.

So, it’s a great quality product at a great price and also great warranty. So we have a two-year warranty on our product that we will make sure that we honor, and that’s been honored, and that this isn’t a new brand, that this is a brand that’s been around for a long time now that’s been serving customers in the United States, and products are staying sold and the reviews are great. So, I think that that part of it is going to be key to talking about with the customers that are on the… 

Rob Stott: You mentioned, obviously we’re talking about this now and we’re getting ready to really roll out this partnership, but it’s something that we’ve been working together in a couple of stores here and there to test run the product. What’s that early feedback been like for you, from not just the customers, but also the members you’ve been working with?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, the members are really happy. One, they’re getting product, they’re getting it on time and it’s selling very quickly. I think some of them have actually called us to tell us, “Wow, we can’t believe it’s being sold through very quickly and there’s big reorders coming.” So, we’re really excited about that. Sell through, staying sold, taking care of them, taking care of the customers. I think if you had to ask some of the people that have the Element product on their shelves now, they would tell you that they’re loving it, and we’re really excited about that.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. I know I’m going to be fighting with some of them. I don’t know what member I’m going to have to go to to get one of those 14 cubic foot chest freezers, but I got to put my order in. Where do I put my order in?

Vlad Kazhdan: Yeah, that’s right. As we talked about, I mean, there’s a way to do that, right? If-

Rob Stott: I just got to make you look good.

Vlad Kazhdan: … potential for your future, right?

Rob Stott: Understood, understood. So, no, that’s awesome. Vlad, I appreciate it. We hit on a lot of awesome stuff today, really got to know your brand and the Element brand and where you guys are going. Really cool story. Like I said, it’s a name that has recognition in retail and in the consumer electronics/now home appliance space. So it’s exciting to see you guys expand, and I look forward to following the story and hearing from members about it.

Vlad Kazhdan: We appreciate you guys, we really do, and everything that you do. We’ll take all the feedback and we want to make sure that this program is so successful, this launch is so successful. So we’re excited about it as well, and bigger things to come and we can’t wait to continue to grow with you guys.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. Like I said, appreciate you taking the time and we’ll definitely stay in touch.

Vlad Kazhdan: Absolutely. Thank you.

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