7: A Recap of CES 2020 with Lee McDonald of Nationwide Marketing Group

Written by Rob Stott

February 11, 2020

independent thinking podcast


From TP delivery bots to Westworld-style artificial intelligence, CES 2020 brought out all kinds of crazy consumer tech. Nationwide Marketing Group brought a team out to Las Vegas, led by Director of CE Lee McDonald. Lee jumped on the Independent Thinking Podcast to help recap this year’s show.

Rob Stott: So we are just back from CES 2020, my fifth year I think it is now going in a row to CES, and in a different bit of capacity this time, as Corporate Communications Manager for Nationwide Marketing Group. And I have Lee McDonald to thank. Lee is here on the Independent Thinking Podcast today and my guest, and I have you to thank for getting me out to CES. So first of all, just thank you.

Lee McDonald: Yeah. Are you sure you want to thank me for it?

Rob Stott: Right. Well here’s this. I got to go to CES and I didn’t have to write 700 articles in five days, so thank you for the lightened workload, if that makes sense, out in Vegas.

Lee McDonald: Just wait until next year. We’ll make up for it.

Rob Stott: Well yeah, maybe I should have held my cards there for, no pun intended, speaking about Vegas and CES. But no, I truly mean it when I say thank you for letting me go back out there and experiencing that show. So I know you guys had a crazy schedule, but before we dive into what CES was like for Nationwide, you as an attendee of that show, in what way would you possibly sum up CES just as a trade show in general?

Lee McDonald: Wow, that’s a great question. So Hank Alexander, who runs our custom install channel, he posted something on LinkedIn, I think he called it the world’s largest party with 175,000 of your friends. And I will tell you after doing 40 meetings in three days, it doesn’t feel like a party. But it is a great time because you’re around people who truly understand you. And that’s not understand me because I don’t think that’s possible, but who are very, very passionate about retail, which is really hard. I always struggle when people ask me, what do you do for a living, tell me about your job? It’s really unique. I usually end up just saying I work in retail, but I’ve always been a believer that if you work in retail long enough, it’s because you have to be a little crazy.

You either get into retail and you absolutely love it and you never do anything else, or you bounce out of it really quickly because it’s just incredibly crazy. So I love CES because you’re around the same type of people that are just a little bit crazy as you are, and you can see about nine o’clock at night exactly how that crazy manifests itself. So I love it. As a trade show, CES is an opportunity to connect with a lot of people you don’t get a chance to see throughout the year, whether that’s vendors. For us specifically, it’s members. We get to see a lot of members. So this year, we hosted our member cocktail hour. So it was incredible to see how many of our members actually do come to CES. I think sometimes we in the group are quick to say that appliances and furniture and bedding are the lion’s share of the group.

And those are certainly important parts of it. And those are, yes, definitely bigger, but there’s a shocking number of members who are still in the consumer electronics space, and what I guess surprised me the most who are really interested in getting into it. We had a number of members come who worked in the CE space and now coming out of it were starting to put together programs to formulate ways to get them to be able to take advantage of some of the stuff that we’ve announced, a Google program, our LG program, Samsung and a few other different vendors. So for me, a long-winded way to say CES is one of my favorite times of the year and it’s where I feel like I’m not the odd duck.

Rob Stott: No, that certainly makes sense. And I can definitely relate to that feeling about it. And if you’re looking for cliche, I know you said Hank called it a party, it feels sort of that Vegas cliche of you could more relate it to maybe a 15 round Mayweather fight back in his hay day. And by the end of CES, you feel like you went all 15 rounds with Mayweather. Just getting meeting after meeting after meeting is like gut shot, gut shot, head shot, uppercut. And then by the end of the show, you’re just gassed, and then you have to recover for that next week.

And I know that’s certainly something that I think everyone can kind of attest to having attended CES and sort of the beast that it is as a trade show. But looking at the tech itself, there’s some crazy stuff this year. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I came across a Charmin robot that delivered toilet paper to you if you ran out. Sony unveiled a car, more foldable phones and laptops and stuff like that that you could dive into and see that were just off the chains, but what was the craziest piece of tech that you saw at CES?

Lee McDonald: Yeah, there were a lot of interesting things this year, I think more so than the past years I’ve been. And I haven’t been going to CES that long. I think this is only my 10th year going, and there’s a lot of people on our team that have been going a lot longer. For me, I would say the one that I thought was the coolest, just because I think of its real-world potential and impact, was that smart AI project from Samsung. It was called Neon, where they had the digital assistants where it looked like you were talking to a doctor and they could help do your medical diagnosis. Then you learned that that’s not a real person.

Rob Stott: It’s a little creepy.

Lee McDonald: Creepy. It was. It had that uncanny valley type feeling to it, like Westworld. But that was incredible to me because you can start thinking about people who don’t have access to healthcare or don’t have access to different things that can be delivered through a digital platform. That was really interesting to see how well Samsung pulled it off. There were a few other ones too. The Segway S Pod, I don’t know if you saw that.

Rob Stott: Yeah, it looked like something… Reminded me of, what’s the like Wall-E, where the people on the floating pods all around, just pure laziness at its finest.

Lee McDonald: I know. We have truly jumped the shark now. I don’t know if that’s art imitating life or life imitating art, but I just kind of shook my head at that one. It was interesting. I did like the Charmin TP bot. Not sure what they officially call that one.

Rob Stott: Hey, if they don’t have a name, that sounds like a good one.

Lee McDonald: Maybe I should go ahead and trademark that. But it’s always interesting. I think what I walk away from at CES is every vendor, every manufacturer rather, has a really cool story to tell. I mean, you think about Neon and you would never think that that was Samsung. I remember when I was walking by, I was like, who is this? Who’s booth is this Neon? Who’s Neon? And then you learn it’s Samsung. That was pretty incredible. And if you look at what Samsung spends and all the other manufacturers spend on research and development, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. But then you see something like that and you’re like, holy cow, this is way different than anything out there.

And I think that really benefits retail and specifically independent retail because there’s a lot of stories that these manufacturers have to tell. And the saying around the office is these stories, whether it’s a connected home or Google or how these things all interact together is not going to be sold by someone working at a lumber yard. It’s going to be sold by a highly trained, most likely commissioned sales associate who is a professional pursuing a career versus someone just working at a job. So every time I go to CES, I’m always encouraged that the more complicated these stories get, the better it is for independent retail.

Rob Stott: Heck yeah. And that’s kind of an easy segue into a shameless plug for me. But a podcast that we just put, or a blog rather, that I just posted kind of wrapping up CES, and you talk about the opportunity for retailers, particularly at a show like that. It’s educating customers on all these products that are coming out. So yeah, the manufacturers, they clearly get very jazzed and excited about the things that they are able to show at a show like CES. But I find a lot of the times, and I just in the last couple of years going to CES, that they’re more about pushing out buzzwords and things that are catchy, like faster and lower latency. I’m thinking those words apply to something like 5G. But then it falls on the retailers because consumers are still left confused.

Like, okay, faster, lower latency. That sounds great, but what’s it all mean and how’s it apply to me? And that’s where the retailer comes in or at least has the opportunity to come in and kind of be that trusted source for the customer that comes into their store looking for these products. So whether they like it or not, they’re sort of that front line of defense or even you could look at it as offense if you’re going out trying to get customers, and explaining these technologies to them is a very real thing for retail.

Lee McDonald: Yeah, absolutely. I get a lot of questions from members, how do you be successful in the CE business and how do you drive more market awareness? And a lot of times where I find that members ask I would say probably the most similar or what the lowest common denominator, what they all struggle with is just what do you do once you actually get someone who’s interested in buying consumer electronics in your store? And to your point, it’s really about translating what we used to call speeds and feeds, contrast ratio, refresh rate, all those things that are nonsensical, into what is the value and the impact on this customer’s life. Why do you care about 60 Hertz versus 120? Why is 8K important? Is 8K important? These are all really important questions that I think consumers are going to start asking next year.

And that’s the value of independent retail. And that’s really the difference between good and great. The difference between good and great is someone walking into your store, okay, this is the latest we have, this is 8K, it’s a great picture. How would you like to pay for it? Versus someone coming in and having an experience of like, hey, I know you’re not looking for it, but you just have to see this. This is really cool. And then showing someone what we used to call an unqualified demo, whether that’s 8K, whether that’s Samsung Q Symphony where the soundbar works with the TV speakers, and really showing, okay, well I don’t really care that a TV and a soundbar talk to each other until you sit down and you demonstrate the value for me as a consumer. Like, oh, when you hear an airplane kind of flying over behind at mock one, you’re like, oh, okay, yeah, that makes sense, I get that.

Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. No, and absolutely makes sense. And all of this though kind of revolves around this idea of us being at CES and seeing what’s going on and what’s coming and being able to relay that message. So, kind of segueing into, we’ve been talking generally about CES, but let’s talk a little bit more about Nationwide and I think this would have been your first show as director of CE at CES, correct?

Lee McDonald: Yeah, yeah. Crazy to think. But yeah, I think I officially took over in September and then it was really, really quick PrimeTime and then CES, so yeah.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. So when you look at the show, the CES, I know there was a lot of talk leading up to the show about what we were doing, but when you’re out there as Nationwide, what’s the goal… Pretend you’re talking to a member about why we go to CES. What’s your stated goal to that member about what Nationwide’s doing in Vegas at CES and what’s your point of being there?

Lee McDonald: Yeah, it’s really simple. And if you listen to Tom, who everybody knows, our President, Chief Member Advocate, our job really boils down to two things. We either give members back time or we help them make more money. So I look at everything I do, whether it’s trade show attendance or meetings with vendors, but how am I giving back time to members or how am I giving them money? So I look at CES, how do I drive a more meaningful experience for our members to their vendor relations? So are there people with our members that I need to connect to our vendor partners at Samsung, LG, Google, Nest, whoever they need to be, or how do I develop more meaningful programs to help them make more money on the products itself?

I mean, consumer electronics, let’s face it, is not the most margin rich category, at least not as much as it used to be. So that’s why things like our Google Prime Retail Program that’ll help members make more than 24 and some margin on a category that’s typically had a low single-digit margin is so beneficial. So if you asked me what I think of when I go to CES, I’m always looking for ways, if I were a member or I were running a member’s store, what are the things that I always hear them struggle with? It’s manpower, it’s labor, which there’s not a ton of help for them at CES, although we’ve found some really cool solutions this year that we might be hearing about in the future. But a lot of times what consumer electronics specifically needs. How do I make more margin? How do I compete against big box? How do I drive a unique value story where I’m 30 miles outside of a major metropolitan area? So that’s the lens I really try to approach it with.

Rob Stott: And now then from that regard, looking here a week or two weeks after the show, looking back on how it went, I mean with those goals in mind, do you think this year was a success or how do you even come out of a show like CES and gauge success?

Lee McDonald: It’s really hard to quantify success coming out of CES. I will tell you that I feel incredibly proud of the work that went into this CES and some of just the early things that we’ve got coming out of it. So I’ve kind of hinted and I’m sure you’ve done a little bit of work about the Google Prime Retail Program, probably seen that in the news, that’s a game-changer for Nationwide members. That’s a group exclusive and they’ll be able to hear more about it at PrimeTime. Like I said, that’s a major, major margin enhancement that’s exclusive to our members that actually makes that category viable. Even if you’re a furniture dealer, even if you’re an appliance dealer, that’s a really, really big deal for our membership. It helps them lay that foundation for how do you connect appliances and furniture and bedding and CE and tell that story. And kudos to Hank Alexander for getting that program off the ground and running. He did an incredible job with it. So that’s one thing I’m incredibly excited about.

The other part is we had a number of meetings with our distribution partners. With 5,500 members, not everybody is going to have the ability to have a direct one on one relationship with vendors, nor do they really want that. They may not have the time to do that, they may not have a staff to do that. So having a strong, robust network of distribution partners is critical for Nationwide. And I will tell you, we walked away from that meeting with some really, really interesting things. Unfortunately, we can’t really share yet, but we’ll see them at PrimeTime, better programs, access to additional product lines from major manufacturers that will have some really, really deep cuts into CashBack specials. Think about an audio brand that you may or may not know that we just picked up having 60 points of margin at PrimeTime. That’s just 60 points for a major category like audio is a little unheard of. So I look at CES as an absolute win. And I think our members, when they look at what the team produced coming out of CES, will agree with us.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And one thing in there that I heard that kind of sticks with me and is actually a nice sort of a way to transition to the next question about trends here is that you’re talking about a program like the Google Prime Retail Program, and certainly I hope everyone at this point has heard a little bit about that program having pushed out the press release and gotten some awesome coverage on it. So to that end and to that extent and to that program, you talk about the trends of something like the connected home, and I know we’ve already hit on a couple of others as far as 8K and 5G, but what were some of the big trends walking around the floor this year as you’re talking to these vendors and just roaming the show floor yourself? What were the trends that you spotted that you think stand out and can make an impact in our members’ stores?

Lee McDonald: Yeah, I think it’s interesting too because I want to start just quickly saying, part of the reason that I wanted to do this podcast is not because I love my own voice, although I think a lot of people will tell you, especially my wife, that that’s the case. But again, with 5,500 members, I just don’t believe that they have the time to go out and read all the news and digest it. And what my hope is that you and I, by talking about things that are relevant, what happened this month and how it relates to our members, is that they get at least a small part of what I’ve been so incredibly blessed with, which is the knowledge and the ability to work in consumer electronics. And if that makes one of them smarter, then I’ll be more than happy to talk into a big microphone for the rest of my life. But as it relates to trends that are coming out, it’s interesting.

I’ve read a really good article at Engadget. I would encourage everybody to head over to Engadget and look at what their article on 8K wrote, because they gave two contrasting opinions. One was, specifically as it relates to 8K, ah, 8K there’s no content, it’s not real technology. The TVs are super expensive. But then their counterpoint, I can’t remember who wrote it, was actually incredibly well written. And the point is all these technologies that come out, it’s not because that Samsung or LG or Sharp believe that 8K is going to be 30% market share in the first year it’s released. No, it’s really about showing consumers what’s kind of ahead of the curve, what’s just around the corner. And a lot of that technology will actually trickle down.

So 8K may not be as hot of a commodity as everybody wants to think of it this year. But the technologies that are underneath that in call it the near are really critical, whether that’s as it relates to contrast ratio, HDR, some of the other things that go into it like 5G, I know we’ll talk to 5G in a second. But a lot of that stuff will eventually trickle down into TVs this year. So I don’t think 8K is going to be probably double-digit market share until 2022 or maybe very late 2021 at the earliest. But I think a lot of technology that’s in there will make it into TVs either this year or next year.

Rob Stott: Yeah. And the other cool thing too about it, you hit on all the right points there that that article brings up and was able to find it here, sitting here, is that content doesn’t exist yet. And I even have some of my own qualms about jumping into the 8K game this early. But at the same time, you talk about some of the other technologies that 8K is kind of showcasing right now. I think back to when 4k came out and brands tried to show off this upscaling technology from 1080P to 4K on these TVs that were roughly about the same size. It didn’t really have that big of an impact. But you walk onto the CES show floor and you see an 8K TV, 98 inches that’s upscaling 4K, even 1080P content that you were looking at on a 32 inch TV, that has some impact.

So, I mean, it’s clear that the difference, when you’re talking about something, I think it’s 33 million pixels inside these frames as opposed to what 1080 and even 4K, it’s not double the size. What people I think need to understand is 8K is four times the size of 4k as far as pixel density. So I mean this technology, it’s not there as far as the content’s concerned, but there are so many other positives about it and just advancements in the video game, well I should say the video industry, the video space as opposed to the last jump from 1080 to 4K. So it’s impressive even though it feels like it’s ahead of its time right now.

Lee McDonald: Yeah. And sorry, I’m stumbling over my words here. So I wrote an article for Independent Thinking, which is our Nationwide magazine, and a lot of that is also about being a destination for consumers when they shop. If you just show the every day, day in, day out, same TVs that they can see at Best Buy, it’s the same shopping experience they get at a national retailer, you’re not doing your business a service. And I worked for a retailer in Colorado that was lucky enough to be a destination retailer. I mean we had a big building, an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere in terms of retail. There was nothing next to us, no furniture, restaurants. I think we had a Popeye’s Chicken across the street. That was pretty much where everybody ate.

But what we did have is we had $20,000 TVs. We had a $50,000 audio room. I will never forget the first audio demo I had in my life. And it was one of the first experiences where I knew I was hooked, is they were showing a demo from Minority Report with Tom Cruise. And there’s a sick scene in there where they go through an Audi factory, this futuristic Audi factory. And they have these air cannons that they shoot and try to catch Tom Cruise as he’s running away. And they had these massive 15-inch subwoofers that probably were powered by a small nuclear reactor. And when they shot those guns, it reverberated in your chest, took your breath away. And that is about being a destination retailer. And that’s really where I want to help our members is to figure out how do they become in their market a destination retailer.

And specifically, that’s how 8K can help these folks because yeah, they may not buy a 25 to $30,000 television, but with the display allowances and the programs that our vendors put together, it is very reasonable to try and get one of those sets in your store, and how awesome would it be in your community that you are now the focal point for 8K and all this emerging technology. And then it allows you to have a conversation about a TV that maybe they would end up purchasing. So when I look at that technology, I know one of the questions you asked me is how does that excite me? Because I think our members have an incredible opportunity to become a destination for these next-generation technologies that are out there at CES.

Rob Stott: Absolutely. And you talk about becoming a destination. My mind immediately goes to specifically, and not to praise one particular vendor, but LG. Their booth every year is a destination booth. I mean mainly because they are that first entrance, and when you’re in the central hall or the central hall area, you go immediately into the LG booth when you walk into the convention center there at CES. But they’ve got the waves, the bendable, the curved LEDs that are there. But then also you get inside the booth, and I’m thinking something that could translate directly to a retailer store. And you see inside that booth the OLED R, which for those who don’t know, is that rollable TV that LG has that it’s a whole display at CES. But I can just imagine in a retail store one of those being enough to cause a stir in a community to get people to come look at a TV that can literally unroll itself out of a box and then fold itself right back up when you’re not using it.

Lee McDonald: Yeah. And if you just think tactically for a minute, I hate to take the podcast to talk about sales tactics, but you’re absolutely right because if someone walks in, that’s what I always mention about the unqualified demo. Like yeah, look, I know you’re here for the 499 trunk slammer special, but look, buy that TV, that’s great, but you got to check this out. This is the coolest thing ever. You press that button and the TV rolls down, and they will lose their minds. And then they see how thin it is, and it’s literally a piece of paper. Maybe you can start having a conversation like, well, hey, did you know that, for example, LG is going to release a 48 inch OLED this year?

And by the way, it’s only about two or $300 more than the set you were looking at. Look at this incredible difference in picture quality and this technology that’s in the rollable, kind of trickles down to there. And that’s where I think that our members, independent retail as a whole, will win versus the big box stores. Because if you go in and you seeker shop them, which I do every weekend, my wife hates me, but they just do not connect on a technology story. They get it right every now and then. But it’s just not there. And I think that’s one of our biggest opportunities as a group.

Rob Stott: So not just skipping right ahead, but we’ve got a couple of other technologies to talk about, and I know one of them we’ve hinted already but 5G, there’s a lot we can talk about here. Maybe suffice its own podcasts eventually in the future here. But what did you guys see from the 5G standpoint that could maybe tie into some of the things we got, some of the programs we have going on with AT&T and what our members can look for there?

Lee McDonald: Yeah, that was another one. 5G is a lot like 8K to me where it’s incredibly confusing. And the underlying technology is not confusing, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s just everybody has a different idea of what 5G… Everybody has a different idea of what 5G means for them and what it means to their life. And I think a lot of people just gravitate naturally towards 5G being the next kind of thing for cell phones, which it is, but it’s also a massive area of opportunity for medical and healthcare because as you decrease latency and lag, I guess if there are any gamers out there listening to this, that you’re able to do more complex surgery and remote surgery. So I think that was actually one of the first use cases of 5G as they did.

It was a small cell and not very far away from the actual surgeon, but they did a remote test. I think it was an egg or something. It wasn’t a live human, God forbid, but that’s one of them, and I was actually listening to Glen Leary who used to be, I think it was AT&T, but he said that 5G is really the first technology that was purpose-developed, meaning 2G, 3G, 4G were all about hey, let’s do more with less. Let’s have a faster speed. 5G I guess is in his opinion, and I think I actually agree with him, is the first where everybody kind of took a step back and said, okay, but what are we using it for? What can we use it for? What are the use cases? Almost imagine, this is crazy, but imagine that before we did 8K, all of the major studios, all the major TV networks and all the major providers, everybody, all the content creators got together and they said, okay, what does 8K look like?

Let’s create a bunch of content for it before we create the standard. And I feel like that is what started with 5G, but there’s just a lot of information out there about 5G and what it means for people. There’s different types of 5G and different flavors. So it’s really confusing. And I think it’s unfortunate, but where I believe the technology will go is I think it will be pervasive. I think in about two to three years, we’re going to see it in phones. I certainly think we’ll see it in TV. We’ll see it in streaming boxes. I think we’ll start seeing a subset of Apple TVs, I don’t know about Apple specifically, but those network streaming devices that don’t have wifi or have wifi but are supplemented through a 5G chip. It’s harder to think about the things that 5G will not impact than it is to tell you all the things I think will have a 5G chip in them.

Rob Stott: Yeah. And the thing my mind goes to when I think about the low latency, and this isn’t necessarily a retail thing per se, but the thing that excites me about low latency and 5G is what it could do to the autonomous vehicle space. And the importance might not be more understated about low latency than on smart cars or driverless cars because you think about the sensors and how quickly they need to, you’re driving down a highway 65, going the speed limit, 65-70 miles an hour in an autonomous car, a driverless car and you need those sensors to click and work as quickly as possible because a split second, in some instances, especially on the road, is a matter of life and death.

So I mean, being able to brake or accelerate and realize what’s happening around you, that’s the kind of thing that having low latency and fast speeds and 5G, in general, is capable of doing. So definitely a lot of industries and a lot of spaces in technology that I know that 5G will impact. So one in particular as well, smart home. And I know we’ve already hinted at Google Nest and some of the things that are happening there with Nationwide, but what else did you see from the smart home spaces? You guys got a chance to walk around the stands a little bit?

Lee McDonald: No. Like I said, we were really literally back to back meetings. As you mentioned earlier, it was my first time in this role, so I thought it was really important to make sure that I had a lot of face time with our partners, both on the vendor side, on the member side. So, unfortunately, that kind of kept me off the floor. But some of our team did go. Henry Farley, who works on our team, on the merchandising team, he got a chance to go and sent back some reports on some really interesting technology and stuff that was out there.

But I was reading one article about someone from the Shark Tank, I think it was one of their producers, that essentially just walks down that lower level of the stands and almost hands out a lifeline to some of these distributors. And I actually spent a lot of time on the manufacturer side developing new products in the consumer electronics space, and I’ve never exhibited down in that stands. I have exhibited in the stands upstairs next to the Fitbit booth. But that’s got to be a wild, wild experience. Because some of those folks, if they didn’t get a sponsorship or placement at CES, they go out of business.

Rob Stott: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s Eureka Park. I know that’s that area in the basement right underneath the convention center that they literally pack with companies. I mean there’s probably more companies in that space than you could combine the amount of companies in the convention center. I think they give them six-foot tables, some of them, and just say, hey, do what you want with the space and make it work for you. And they literally pack it in. But that’s where some of the brightest ideas, and you mentioned people from Shark Tank walk around down there. Not surprising because just some of the futuristic stuff that you could come across down there I know is really off the charts. But thinking about coming out of CES now, you’re through it. We made it, we’re out the other side. I know. A couple of colds I know on the opposite end of CES, but that’s to be expected. But we survived. Thinking of how it went, anything you would’ve done differently looking back at the CES or that you know having been in this role now for this CES, what you would like to do next year?

Lee McDonald: I don’t think I would have scheduled meetings at six in the morning. No. In all seriousness, I don’t know that I would change a lot. I’m really excited about the way it turned out. Incredibly proud of the effort the team put in to pull it off. It is no small feat scheduling that many meetings across that many locations and coordinating travel, and it’s a lot to take on and I’m very thankful I work with people that are much smarter and better looking and well organized than I am. I think the one thing I would tell you that I’m looking forward to next year is just seeing more of our members there. Again, as we started this podcast off, I was overwhelmed with the response. We had never done a member reception consumer electronic show before, and so when we threw it out there, I was really nervous we only may have five, 10 people there.

But I think in the end we had over 100. So that tells me that this group in consumer electronics is incredibly alive, incredibly strong and that there is a significant amount of just pent up interest and excitement about the category as a whole. I didn’t have anybody call me after the show member wise saying, ah, it was a waste of time. I didn’t really get anything out of it. In fact, I had the opposite. I had people calling me, thank you for driving me to CES. I saw a lot of really cool things. Some of our members had been there four or five years, and I’m already getting RSVPs for our travel for next year. So I think that’s what I would do differently is just make it more about the membership and focus on those folks first.

Rob Stott: Well I already know that I plan on getting an earlier flight next year so that I can be at that reception. Because it sounds like it was an absolute blast. And I took a couple of hours late, but that’s one change I’ll have to make to the itinerary looking at CES 2021.

Lee McDonald: The great thing is it’s really low key. We just, for everybody listening, if you couldn’t join, it was just a bunch of people that love independent retail that were sitting around in Vegas having maybe a cocktail or two or whatever your adult beverage of choice was. It wasn’t some, we didn’t go bowling, we didn’t do anything crazy, but it’s just a way for us to get together and share ideas. And that was really humbling for me to be around people that were that successful and wanted to stay in the CE business.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And I know that momentum will certainly carry forward. We got, I believe by the time this publishes, you may be at PrimeTime listening to this or ahead of it, but certainly hoping that momentum carries right through to PrimeTime and beyond and into CES 2021 like I mentioned. So Lee, I appreciate you taking the time and kind of recapping CES, and you mentioned it, we didn’t get to talk about it at the top, but this is something that I know we want to start doing regularly, podcasts about the CE channel, and certainly something I’m looking forward to as it’s a space that’s near and dear to me, kind of where I come from, where I was born in this industry and covering independent retail. So talking about CE is something I enjoy, and I think we’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

Lee McDonald: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, let’s just be real. We have 5,500 members that rely on us to deliver them a lot of value and a lot of knowledge. There are just too many folks to go around. I wish I could call 5,500 people every month. So what I hope is that this turns into we have members on, we talk about their successes, things they’re seeing in the industry, as well as if anyone has questions, send them to Rob, send them to me and we’ll be happy to talk about it on air. It could be anything from, how do I find CE salespeople or how do I enhance the margin on a program and make sure I’m taking advantage of trailing credits or how do I get access to X, Y, Z line? That’s what this is for. This is for our membership. So if you got those questions, send them in. We’re more than happy to talk about it.

Rob Stott: Certainly like Lee said, send it to him, to me and we’ll be sure to get it on air, talk to you, talk about some of these topics, and look forward to continuing to cover it. But again, Lee, thank you. And we will catch up at PrimeTime.

Lee McDonald: That’s right. See you in 30 days.



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