CES retail roundtableAt CES 2012, CNET's Brian Cooley talks with Chad Taylor of ABT Electronics to get a retailer's view of the show.
All right folks let's get serious at what really happened at CES and that is buyers come to buy. I'm Brian Cooley here on the stage at CES 2012. Examining the way forward we've been doing all the whole CES show here from CNET. Joining me now to give us a perspective that we've never brought your before in all the years we've been covering CES. It's about damn time we do, is Chad Taylor from Abt Electronics and based in Chicago. You guys are a force in the Midwest, Chad, but you're not a national, but you guys were deeply rooted in CES. Speaker 2:Correct. Right. So we're (??) retailer located in Glenview, Illinois which is the suburb of Chicago. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: You know one store family in operation. You know we carry everything from your you know basic refrigerator up to your ultrabook, your high end appliances, high end TV's, you name it, we can pretty much do it. Speaker 1: And some AV furniture? Speaker 2: Yup, AV furniture. I mean... Speaker 1: You need a place to put these stuff when you get at home. Speaker 2: It never ends with us you know it's definitely something we take pride in. Speaker 1: Now, describe your store layout because you guys are really innovative on how your store is set up. Now, if you have never been to an Abt... to the Abt store it's not just a big box which you used to work for the big box, isn't it? Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 1: But what's your store lay out like? Speaker 2: So you know you walk our main store, it's very you know appliances is on the left, TV's, consumer comes from the right and then you walk into our H room, we have a big huge fountain that plays water shows throughout the day. And then you have our gourmet shop where you can everything for your kitchen that you could possibly imagine. And then you get into our Sony store, our connect store which are computer store and then Apple boutique. And then I can't forget our time watch zone. Yes. Consumer electronics for sale watches. Speaker 1: So guys are gonna made this little village of different interests in tech. Now, you're here shopping for tablets and laptops primarily, right? Speaker 2: Yup. Tablets, laptops, desktops, anything accessories going with it anything, anything like that. Speaker 1: So tell me how it works. You come to CES, you've... you just got a map to walk the floor, you have meetings? Who do you talk to? Speaker 2: So (??) I come in and have meetings. So I meet with you know I meet with Lenovo yesterday. I saw all their new stuff. I'll meet with Acer and Sony today. I'll meet with some accessory vendors tomorrow. So and that's basically my... my week. I don't really get to walk the floor as much as I like, but... Speaker 1: But seriously you're in meeting and all these stuff on the floor, we know how many millions of dollars these companies spend to set up these booths, but they wanna get with you personally. What happens there that we don't know about? Speaker 2: So in some cases I'll see stuff that you know that hasn't come out yet and.. Speaker 1: Stuff we haven't seen? Speaker 2: Possibly. In some cases, so you know I get to see these stuff before it even you know becomes public in some cases. The back to school stuff, that's new concept even holiday possibly you know so the new ASUS tablet, I know you guys get to see it yesterday, I'll get to see that hopefully today. You know so in some cases you know that's what we talk about you know forecasting and we talk about you know any product shortages or anything like that. Speaker 1: These aren't just, hey, that's gee, it was great stuff. You guys are working each other, right? They want you to buy a lot and you want to be convinced it's gonna move? Speaker 2: Yes. So you know they want to buy a lot. I want them to give me a great deals you know. You know we wanna make sure that if the product sells well and we can get replenished quickly. But it doesn't sell well, we can move it out quickly. So and also it's a constant struggle to find the exact perfect product that sells really well and you know hopefully we can all make some money. Speaker 1: Tell me some of the... some of the products you've seen here, take laptops for example, ultrabooks are really hot. What do you see that you like? Couple of models or couple of features? Speaker 2: I saw the Yoga from Lenovo. It's definitely buy for my favorite piece right now and they've got their new A700 series where you can actually take a 27-inch touch panel and you lay it flat. And it's actually 10 point touch, so you can actually play on piano, so you got that. Speaker 1: We're gonna look at the Yoga here that Chad has been looking at. This is the one, it's highly (articulated?). It has a 360 fold (easel?). Speaker 2: Yeah. It starts as a regular laptop and you can really take and bend the screen back and it flips over, now you got a tablet. Speaker 1: Do you that works or is it too much bulk when it's in tablet mode to be really considered a tablet? Speaker 2: You know, it's gonna be... definitely a market for people 'cause I carry a tablet and my laptop. Speaker 1: Yeah, a lot of us do. Speaker 2: So you know for me to have a functionality with Windows 8 that do everything I need to do with one device. I'll deal with a little bit of the bulkiness. Speaker 1: Yeah. We're talking to Chad Taylor from Abt Electronics. He's here. He's a buyer for Abt and he's looking for laptops, looking for tablets, looking for desktops, some gaming gear as well, right? Speaker 2: Yeah. Yes. We had to play with the PlayStation Vita the other day. Speaker 1: Yeah. How do you like it? Speaker 2: It's pretty cool. So definitely, I like it a lot better than the PSP. Much more responsive. Much more comfortable as well. Interesting. Speaker 1: When you place an order, you have to figure out what you want and how many of them you wanted. You mentioned forecasting, now, how do you know what we want with consumers? How do you figure that out? Speaker 2: You know, I read CNET and it would tell me everything. Speaker 1: Amen. Speaker 2: So you know we ask. I mean, so we do listen to... to our customers you know. The nice thing about Abt, we've been in... we've been in the Chicago area for so long now that you know our customers will just flat out tell us, hey, we're looking for this. I mean and we try to go out and find it. Speaker 1: Now, your website looks like it's a great big sophisticated E-Commerce website, but your stores are very different thing. You guys were founded a long time ago by Jewel and David Abt. They were hall of fame inductees for the CEA in 2008. I mean they are part of the originals of the E-crowd in this country. What do you guys do differently than a Best Buy or any of the other big boxes that maybe out in your area? This is like a major local vendor which is almost kind of a weird mix. Speaker 2: And so you know one of the biggest things that Abt is our people. You got sales people who have been there 40 years you know, so they've... they'er you know you got people who been there you know and that's what they specialize in, so if you're having a sales person that you work with for 25 years and they're gonna tell you, hey, go talk to someone from our computer store or go talk to someone if you're gonna trust that person if you're gonna work with (??). Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: Yeah. Absolutely. Speaker 1: So let me get this right. I go into your store and I've got a question about tech and I'm gonna get someone informed to tell me my answer? Speaker 2: Absolutely. Speaker 1: Who knew that was possible, right? Beautiful. Speaker 2: So yeah, we definitely take pride in knowing our products. Knowing what's going on out in the world and we take pride in our training as well. Speaker 1: Yeah. Let's talk about what you do with this whole area of online versus offline. Majority of your sales are through the site or in the store? Speaker 2: We have a good mix of both. We actually do sales 3 ways. In the store, online, and we do have a few phone sales department, so we do... Speaker 1: Interesting. Speaker 2: So we do... so if you... Speaker 1: So there are folks that are buying the latest laptops and tablets, but they wanna do it on the phone. Speaker 2: Absolutely. There are still people who don't wanna put their credit card number on the computer. Speaker 1: Interestingly. A lot of people don't. Speaker 2: So we take hundreds and hundreds of phone calls a day. We actually just went to 24 hours, Monday through Friday where we have someone who answer the phone for you. Speaker 1: You guys remind me a little bit about like being HP (??) I'm sure they're an archival, but you guys are in that same sort of you know have a (low cost?) in one major city, but you have a big reach. How do you guys get your product mix together? We've heard that you look for who to yes to, you always say no to a lot of products. You only have so much shelves space because you run a real store, it's a big part of your operation. You have to say more to maybe more things than an online retailer who can (drop ship?) everything. Speaker 2: Right. Speaker 1: It is tough to make those call. Do you ever make the wrong call and say we didn't buy the right one. Speaker 2: Sure. You know you always make the good calls, you make the calls too. So you know one of the nice things is because we're one store, we don't have thousands (sources?) support. We can be very selective in what we have, but we also special order almost anything. So for instance with our Apple assortment, you know we will special order any configuration our customers want without any problem 9 times out of 10. If the customer walks and they see a specific laptop you know that... and we can get it, we'll order it for them. We'll definitely gonna say yes to any reasonable request. Speaker 1: So the big talk that was going over the holiday is about the retail space versus online. People were going in the stores like yours or Best Buy or in these places, looking for things using their QR Code or they're bar scanning up on the camera and then buying at Amazon after they've checked it out in the store. Is that a problem? How are you guys dealing with it? Speaker 2: So again, it's a loyalty thing for us. I mean our customers definitely wanna shop with us. We do have you know great... a great, great customer base and again if it's... if it's being sold by Amazon and we're gonna... we need a price to match it, 9 times out of 10, we'll price match Amazon, so we... we don't a problem... Speaker 1: Interesting. You'll price match Amazon online? Speaker 2:9 times out of 10. Yes. It's gotta sold by Amazon. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: So were not gonna... Speaker 1: Okay, fulfilled by Amazon. Speaker 2: Right. Right. Speaker 1: All right. Not just some sort of Amazon network merchant or something. Speaker 2: You got it. Speaker 1: Interesting. Okay. Last thing I wanna ask you about is (??) is the Thai floods had been hitting... you know this, I think almost every Nikon DSLR is actually made in Thailand and components for lots of cameras and computers come out of Thailand and that's been I mean literally unprecedented flooding in that country. What have you heard about that's gonna do the supply of things that use hard drives. Speaker 2: So hard drives are definitely there's gonna be some shortages of hard drive. We've already seen that since we've had increases you know... especially for companies who didn't have a lot of stock to begin with. You know so the interesting thing is the bigger drops for desk top. It's gonna be harder and harder to find. Speaker 1: It will one or two terabyte... Speaker 2: Especially to terabyte drives, some laptops are gonna be affected. You know they're working through it, but you know when you deal that kind of devastation, your entire factory is under water, workers and people displaced, so we're definitely seeing... gonna see some pains for you know next couple of months, I think. After that it kinda it's should hopefully get better soon. Speaker 1: What categories do you see going cool at the store? Things that you know industry wise are just kinda people are losing interest. Speaker 2: You know with all the ultrabook talk, you know the big huge monstrous laptops you know... Speaker 1: Yeah, we spoke the desktop. Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: You know so even for me. I'm mean I'm not gonna be running all around my store with my laptop on my hand running around on those 14 inch. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: You know I used to carry a 15, 16 inch laptop. You know desktops old once are definitely starting to... to kind of get even more big hold on the traditional desk top. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: And then with Windows 8 coming out, and being able to utilize a touch screen even more, I think that will continue. Speaker 1: A lot of times when Windows comes out with a newer version, Microsoft comes out with a version of Windows it's (10 KNB?) but is it always a huge spike cycle and it can be a like long cycle you guys enjoy for months or a year. Do you think Windows 8 is gonna be a watershed or it's gonna be one of the quieter Windows driving releases? Speaker 2: You know Windows 7 is great. Speaker 1: It is. So that's the thing. It's a good OS. Speaker 2: So I think if they can definitely put enough value in it and make it reasonably priced for the upgrade, you know it definitely could help... will help us all. Speaker 1: If 7 was good then that kinda makes it tougher for 8 to drive a lot of folks in the door. Speaker 2: Yeah. Well and then with XP still around, I mean you got Windows 7, you still got... Speaker 1: That's the word XP people don't realize how popular XP is and it's dead. Speaker 2: XP's still around and you got people who haven't migrated to 7, so ... Speaker 1: Especially because of corporate. Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 1: All right, Chad. Thanks so much for being here. Let's hear it for Chad Taylor from Abt Electronics in Chicago who is giving us a point of view that we don't hear enough of around here and it's kind of the backbone why people come to consumer electronic show. So Thank you very much Chad and that's Abt Electronics there at abt.com. That's an unusual, but that's how it's spelled. Speaker 2: