Monday, August 27, 2012

ECRM Levin Consulting Electronics Retail Summit

ECRM Levin Consulting Electronics Retail Summit
What’s Trending in Technology Products

I attended the ECRM Levin Consulting Electronics Retail Summit August 13-15, and learned some interesting facts about where technology product sales are headed for 2012-2013. There are some exciting opportunities for collegiate retailers ahead!
The event started off with a general session titled: “Exploiting Niche Opportunities in a Stagnant Market,” presented by Stephen Baker, Vice President, Industry Analysis at the NPD Group ( Mr. Baker talked about the electronics industry as a whole. His analysis showed that overall industry volumes will be flat to negative for the year. Not a good sign. However, it’s no surprise that Apple is driving the industry. While Q2 2012 Year-over-Year revenue results from Apple were almost flat, the previous four quarters showed 12%-36% growth over the previous year. All other electronic products were down 3%-9% during this same period. Apple seems to be keeping the industry afloat.
Mr. Baker recommends that retailers should follow the big opportunities—PC’s, tablets and smartphones. PC’s and tablets are a core product in your college store mix, and ICBA is working to add smartphones to our programs. These three categories account for about 38% of the total electronics sales in the industry.

As you most likely know, tablets outsold notebook computers over the past few months.
Mr. Baker stated that notebook/netbook purchasers were slightly more likely than desktop purchasers to attach an accessory to their computer purchase. Sales of accessories for these products are on the rise, with cases and screen protectors accounting for about 70% of the total accessory revenues. Several companies at the ECRM/Levin meetings offered new bags and sleeves for laptops and tablets, as well as charging solutions for laptops and tablets. Many of the vendors I met with are also gearing up their inventory of cases, sleeves and charging accessories for the announcement and launch of the Apple iPad mini, expected later this fall. His research also showed that wireless mice were a hot commodity.

Smartphone accessories have seen a 25% increase for 2012. 7 in 10 cell phone purchasers attach an accessory for their phone at the time of purchase or within 6 months. The average cell phone purchase resulted in an additional $30 spent on accessories for the phone, though smartphones generate over three times more accessory spending.

Smartphone retailers (AT&T, Verizon stores) are losing out on the majority of aftermarket purchases, as four-in-five purchasers say they returned to a different retailer to make their aftermarket accessory purchase. That is great news for collegiate retailers. Cell phone cases, earbuds with in-line mics and charging solutions should be staples in your department. Cell phone cases are more of a fashion statement than functional, so buyers are apt to purchase more than one for their phone.

All of the vendors I met with are gearing up for the new Apple iPhone 5, scheduled to be announced in mid-September and ready for sale a few weeks later. Rumors are that the new phone will boast a bigger screen and could possibly be slightly thinner. There is also a rumor that Apple is dropping its 30-pin connector in favor of a different configuration. All of this means that there is plenty of opportunity to stock and sell new accessories for the iPhone 5—cases, battery cases, chargers, etc.

Finally, audio remains important but the growth segments are designed to make it more portable (and less device centric). While headphones and earbuds still remain strong, streaming audio speakers or Bluetooth speakers will also see continued growth in the market, experiencing a 280% growth in the past year.

Bluetooth speakers range in price from about $50 to $200 and now produce some awesome sound in a small package. It is important that you have a display unit out so that your customer can sync their device and listen to their own music. That is the best way to sell a system.

I am working with many of the companies I met at the ECRM/Levin Consulting Electronics Retail Summit to bring their products to our member stores, either direct or through key distributors who serve our channel. Look for the announcements about these new programs and take advantage of what these vendors have to offer. There are opportunities for growth in your store’s electronics/technology department with new product constantly hitting the market.

Blogged by Marty Duncan, ICBA Program Manager

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shopping the LA Fashion District!

Women’s fashion merchandise is an emerging category for many collegiate retailers today. In response to this opportunity, ICBA developed a buying program in May 2011 with, a company that focuses on your particular market to find current fashion apparel and accessories at 20 to 60% below wholesale. ApparelOffPrice emails the buyers a catalog of current styles, available for at once shipping, 2-3 times per week. was started by Bob Libby, a fashion industry veteran in Los Angeles, who also started The Insiders Buying Office. At The Insiders Buying Office, Bob and his staff take buyers directly to major manufacturers, contractors and jobbers in Los Angeles to shop for Junior and Contemporary Apparel. Buyers pick from the racks the most current styles of clothing in all categories: Junior, Missy Contemporary, Plus Size Women's Clothing and Men's.

On August 7 & 8 I, Marty Duncan, ICBA Program Manager, along with 14 buyers from nine ICBA member stores, traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Bob and his team and shop the LA Fashion District and San Pedro Market. ICBA members who participated were Abby Coan, Auburn University, Laura Anderson and Cari Callahan, Central Washington University, Kristin Bonetati and Lily Lopez, CSU Long Beach, Shandra Van Berkum, Iowa State University, Kelly Morlock and Sarah Castro, San Diego State University, Liz Simpson, University of Kansas, Amanda Butler and Cristy Phelps, University of Missouri, Diane Wirth, University of Oregon, and Pam Loignon and Richard Karlinsky, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

The group met with and viewed lines from 12 different sources. Items included sweaters, jackets, leggings, basic & fashion tees, blouses, dresses and more. We also visited one of the largest accessories showroom in the San Pedro Market and the buyers walked away with jewelry, handbags, scarfs, hats and even some display fixtures.

Most of what was purchased was for immediate delivery, so many of the items will be in the stores for Fall 2012 Rush sales.

Kelly Morlock, San Diego State University, commented: “Bob was great; he got great pricing, had a variety of things to see, and I loved that there was no pressure. The fashion was all current and on point, and I liked that he listened to our needs. I truly enjoyed spending time with other (ICBA) stores, listening and seeing what they have done that works and what doesn’t.”

We finished the two days of buying with a trip to the University of Southern California Bookstore, where they have a spacious fashion department on their lower level that features both men’s and women’s fashions and accessories. Natasha Kuzmanovic, Senior Apparel Buyer, gave us a quick tour of her department.

Kristin Bonetati, CSU Long Beach, summed up her experience by saying: “The group of buyers was awesome! We learned so much from talking to them and hearing what they do and how they display.  It was really collaborative. We really liked the trip to USC at the end.  It not only gave us a chance to see how the product could be displayed at its best, but also some really great product and merchandising ideas.”

ICBA will be planning future trips to Los Angeles to meet with The Insiders Buying Office and shop the Fashion District and San Pedro Market. Please contact Marty Duncan, ICBA Program Manager at if you are interested in joining the group. Actual dates have not been set, but the plan is to go in early November 2012 and late July 2013.

In the meantime, I encourage you to join the ICBA Fashion Group Facebook page and follow the successes of these schools and others and see how they are selling fashion merchandise and accessories. Simply search for “ICBA Fashion Group” on Facebook and request to join. This is a private Facebook site and the postings and discussions are limited to ICBA member stores only.

At ICBA, we are committed to bringing our stores the latest fashion styles and prices that help them expand their own fashion departments and increase their profits.

Contact ICBA for more information, 800.888.9222 and Insiders Buying Office at

Blogged by Marty Duncan, ICBA Program Manager