CEMA Sponsoring Product Return Conference

Returned products are problematic for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. Returns have always eaten into profits in the audio and video business. Everybody knows that. What isn't widely known is that the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association sponsors an annual conference to help deal with the problem.

This year, Product Returns '98 will be held September 15 at the Chicago O'Hare Marriott Hotel. Co-sponsors of the one-day conference include the Professional Audio/Video Retailers Association (PARA), the American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA), the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the North American Retail Dealers Association (NARDA), and the National Electronics Service Dealers Association (NESDA). The conference is expected to be attended by representatives from over 5000 suppliers and 4000 retailers.

"Product returns continue to be a drag on the profits of our entire industry and that of our co-sponsors," said CEMA's president, Gary Shapiro, in an association press release. "Last year returns of some hard goods were as high as 20%, costing billions of dollars in lost profits and increased operating costs. At last yearÆs conference, more than 300 retailers and manufacturers identified the scope of the problem, and began to identify potential solutions. This year we will focus on actionable solutions . . . to set a course to pare down product returns."

Brad H. Anderson, president and chief operating officer of Best Buy Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, will deliver the keynote presentation on strategies to minimize returns. "One challenge that all retailers---big or small---and manufacturers need to solve is product returns," Anderson said. "Most agree that education is the first step, but we need to identify specific programs that reduce the associated costs as well. CEMA's taken a leadership position on returns and has recognized that this is not a one-sided supplier or retailer problem."

Attendees will hear from other experts, including CEMA's Vice President and Senior Economist Todd Thibodeux, and Nathan Mortan, Chairman & CEO of Computer City. Two panel discussions will take place at the conference. The first will be a retailer panel, and the second, a supplier panel to help "identify Partnering Strategies to Reduce Returns," CEMA's announcement said.

Registration fees are $400 for those registering before May 31. After May 31, the fee will be $450 for sponsoring/co-sponsoring association members and $550 for non-members. On-site registration will be $599 regardless of an attendee's affiliation. More information about the program and registration is available from Kelly Miller in the CEMA conference department at (703) 907-7616.