Connected Design, partnering with MEPO, recently kicked off their Insider Talk series on Facebook Live, and Publisher MaryEllen Oswald, along with Dealerscope Publisher Tony Montleone, welcomed their guests, Deena Ghazarian, Austere founder and CEO, and Angus Bryan, VP of Merchandising at retail chain BrandsMart.

Among the many topics the four discussed were business in the current COVID-19 climate, products that are doing well amid the malaise and how smart companies are successfully navigating these tough times.

Ghazarian pointed out how the pandemic has seen certain products take off due to the suddenly forced changes in consumer behavior.

“The current work-from-home situation has seen certain products explode,” Ghazarian said. “Certain products have emerged as must-haves. Charging devices have seen a huge uptick, as well as HDMI cables. Also our cleaning products like Clean & Protect, which is no surprise given it’s an anti-bacterial, ammonia-free cleaning wipe for electronics.”

From the retail perspective, Bryan spoke about how BrandsMart has cautiously returned to business, in accordance with all safety guidelines, of course. The chain’s nine locations in Atlanta and South Florida are seeing a different kind of foot traffic due to the virus.

“There is no window shopping these days,” Bryan explained. “Customers are coming in knowing exactly what they want, purchasing it and heading back home. They know what they are there for before they enter the store.”

Among the products he claims they are buying include refrigerators, gaming products, streaming devices and, as you’d expect, TVs.

“People are looking for ways to be entertained and right now the TV is central to that, as the entire family is doing things together and watching movies and streaming favorite TV shows at home,” he added.

Bryan added that doorbell cameras have taken off as well during the pandemic, as consumers are ordering more online and want to keep an eye on arriving packages… perhaps before someone else does. 

Austere’s Ghazarian also touched on the effect the trade war with China is having on Austere and the entire CE space, with regard to tariffs, and how the company has to be “more humble, and think about making much smarter shipping decisions.” She was also quick to point out that it’s the consumer that ultimately pays the penalty.

“The consumer is the one who is ultimately penalized during this trade war by paying higher prices on goods,” she said. “And with this being such a difficult time for people already, this becomes doubly frustrating for everyone.” 

Both Ghazarian and Bryan also spoke about the slow climb to a more normal time and about doing business in the near future.

“Smart companies are moving in the direction of needs that are being created by this pandemic,” Ghazarian said. “There are bright spots and opportunities that have emerged. The key is to do things and make moves that are based on helping your customers get through this.” 

Bryan agreed, adding, “We are listening to our customers and responding to what they are telling us. We know we are doing things right if we are responding to people’s needs and staying connected to our communities.”

MEPO’s Michael and Jaime Restrepo, who also run the A/V and automation integration firm Restrepo Innovations, produce Insider Talk for Connected Design, and future plans for the series as well as a schedule of upcoming discussions planned will be available shortly. Check out the May 12th discussion here.

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