by Kirsten Nelson
Buffalo, NY--When times are as tough as they are now, it's all about "incremental opportunities." Careful expansion into new product categories and exploration of service-based business models are two relatively secure ways to increase profits, whether your business is going strong or you're looking for a little life on the margins.
These were some of the tenants shared late last month at Stampede Presentation Products' third annual Vendor Summit in Buffalo, NY, where I served as a presenter and co-moderator on an integrator discussion panel. For the manufacturers and dealers present, the objective was clear — expansion through education and specialized sales expertise.
Opening the event on a crisp Tuesday morning, Stampede Global president and COO Kevin Kelly stated his company's objective: "We're looking to create profitable opportunities for customers, and for getting them into categories they might not be in so they can grow their business."
Newest among those categories is videoconferencing, which Stampede dove into in a major way earlier this year with the acquisition of Spire Global, exclusive distributor of Sony videoconferencing products in the U.S. Since the acquisition, Stampede has created a dedicated specialist sales team for videoconferencing and expanded its tech support. The distributor also created a new Sony videoconferencing leasing program which puts the equipment in the hands of dealers' customers for less than $100 per month. To show off the new product line's capabilities, Stampede is taking it on the road this month with its Big Book of AV Tour, which lands in Houston, TX on November 9 and Phoenix, AZ on November 11.
The year 2011 was a big one for Stampede, which invested millions in expansion with the Spire acquisition and in increased inventory levels, A/R, and new staff and offices. Fourteen new staff members have joined Stampede in the past year, "which is noteworthy in this economy," Kelly observed. "The result of these efforts is continued growth in a tough environment."
Stampede added 13 new product lines in 2011, bringing its total roster up to 120 different manufacturers. Dealer credit lines are also on the rise to help customers take on more projects. Citing these many areas of growth, Kelly reported that Stampede will report record sales this year. "We expect 2011 sales to show a 51 percent growth in unit sales in core categories, a 48 percent increase in operating profit, and a 257 percent increase in net income," he said.
According to Kelly, 2011 has been the most successful year yet in the company's 14-year history of serving the needs of professional AV dealers. Next on the agenda is a quest to add AV dealers in targeted locations in order to provide them with sales leads identified by Stampede. Its Big Book of AV website is on a growth curve, and when online searchers request information on technology solutions, Stampede passes that information on to its dealer base.
Education is also tantamount to Stampede's success, and next year it plans to launch new online courses and hands-on technical training. Also on the docket is a series of mergers and acquisitions seminars for dealer principals.
The Vendor Summit also offered a look at the state of the industry, with front-projection market analysis revealed in a keynote address by Dr. William Coggshall, president of Pacific Media Associates and a dealer discussion panel. The latter of these provided much in the way of perspective, with dealers from Canada and midwest, eastern, and southern regions of the U.S. addressing questions about trends and their preferences in doing business with distributors.
Flat panels are definitely moving into the space formerly occupied by projectors, according to the dealers. In classrooms and boardrooms, LCDs (and often consumer displays, at that) are where business is headed. This trend is taking another chunk out of margins for dealers, which makes the relationship with a distributor key in business survival. Better support from the distributor means faster installs and more profit.
Looking ahead to 2012, Kelly told Vendor Summit attendees that Stampede will focus on three major initiatives: dive deeper into the market, improve organizational alignment, and prepare dealers for both today and tomorrow. "Over the next three months, we are going announce a number of strategic new programs that are going to create even more opportunities for our manufacturer and dealer partners. 2012 is going to be another very exciting year for us and it couldn't come at a better time as we will celebrate our 15th anniversary next year."