The Aug. 12th episode of the Dealerscope Insider Talk series featured Patrick Maloney, Senior VP of Merchandising, & Melissa Stenson, VP of Member Experience, at Nationwide Marketing Group. The discussion centered around current business conditions during COVID-19, and also plans relating to Nationwide PrimeTime.
As the largest retail buying group in the U.S., Nationwide will celebrate its 50-year anniversary in 2021, and as Maloney explained, “It’s certainly been a wild ride.”
And no time has ever been wilder for the group and its independent dealer members than the one the industry is experiencing right now. The execs related both the challenges and triumphs of these times to Dealerscope Publisher Tony Monteleone and Editor in Chief Nancy Klosek, diving deep into the specter of doing business during the pandemic.
“A lot of our members’ stores [at first] were deemed non-essential by the states they operate in. At the high watermark we had about 1,200 stores that had to close,” Maloney said. “Those are only down to a dozen now, but it was kind of frightening for a while.”
Maloney added that the rough patches have been smoothed over a bit, as kitchen appliances and home office product sales have spiked; shelter-in-place orders have actually helped sales in those areas, he said. He also added how Nationwide has seen a dramatic change in the type of business their members are doing.
“Online transactions are up over 300 percent, and we host and manage websites for our members. They’re all transactional and eCommerce-ready, but we’re seeing more and more of our members access that functionality, and understand that they need to get active in this,” he explained, adding that Nationwide is now investing much more in this area and helping to successfully navigate their dealers into this area now more than ever.
As part of a tireless effort to help members come through the pandemic, Nationwide has developed a COVID-19 database on all things pandemic-related. The site covers areas such as: How to apply for PPE; what businesses are considered essential by state; state-by-state links for retail-facing news regarding COVID-19, and so on.
“We actually opened this site to up to the public as it was so comprehensive – and now we have morphed that effort into what we call our ‘Back to Business’ hub with the focus shifted to how to conduct business during this reopening phase,” Maloney explained. “We’re covering topics like best practices for delivery, financial services, health policies, and on and on.”
Regarding the changes Nationwide members might see at the rescheduled at PrimeTime event, now slated for Oct.18-21 in Las Vegas, Stenson began with a familiar refrain in this era of COVID.
“This has definitely been a year like no other,” she stated. “In May we looked at August but realized that may not be a possibility, but when we surveyed our members, they all, overwhelmingly, wanted to have the show. That makes us feel really good as face-to-face interactions are so important to us. Our events are all about getting energized and excited for the following season.”
Stenson added that for those who still might not be comfortable coming to Vegas, Nationwide plans to have various virtual components as well, so stay-at-home attendees won’t miss out.
Maloney closed the conversation by trumpeting the flexibility Nationwide members have shown during this crisis – as only local, independent retailers can during a time such as this.
“Our members have really stepped up their efforts during the pandemic. We’re going to come out of this stronger than ever – they have adapted and proven that they can adapt,” he said. “I’m so proud of what we’ve been doing, what our vendors are doing and what our members are doing. It’s so much about community, and they have answered that, and simply said, this is our community.”
To check out more of the conversation in this edition of Insider Talk, click here.