The Electronic Retailing Association

See you in Las Vegas! Report from the Seville panel on the Future of t-commerce following the collapse of ERA U.S.

(L-R) Ken Daly, JML, moderator of the high-level global panel: Andrew Malcher (HighstreetTV), Alex Chacon, (EHS), Jonathon Gregory, (Oak Lawn), Dieter Schneider (MediaShop Group), Katie Williams, (Ideal Living), Fernando Mercenari, (Inova)

On Friday June 1st 2018 we heard the sad news that ERA U.S. has discontinued its service with immediate effect. Receiving this e-mail left the global community of the multi-channel home shopping world with many unanswered questions. We even heard voices speaking of the end of an ERA, envisioning the END of our industry.

But this is not the end but one of the changes that we see in digital times and we are certain there will be an upcoming solution to maintain our global network. For this reason a special panel was set up in response to the situation seeking to understand the dynamics and with the goal of focussing on structuring the future. What are the European and global needs? What needs to be improved and how do we organise ourselves to fulfil these needs through best practice?

On the first day of the Seville conference, we were optimistic and excited to receive guidance from the special panel which was made up of the following international industry leaders:

  • Alex Chacon, Chairman, European Home Shopping, Spain
  • Jonathan Gregory, MD, Oak Lawn Marketing International Inc., Japan
  • Andrew Malcher, Co-founder & Exec. Chairman, High Street TV (Group) Ltd., UK
  • Fernando Mercenari, CEO, Inova, Mexico
  • Dieter Schneider, CEO, MediaShop GmbH, Austria
  • Katy Williams, President, Ideal Living, US

The panel was moderated by Ken Daly, CEO JML, UK.

This topic impacts all of us involved in the Multi-Channel Home Shopping Industry and we were delighted so many of you took the time to attend and joined the discussion. We highly value your input!

Here follows the minutes of the discussion:

Ken Daly, (JML, UK) moderated the session

Ken Daly, CEO JML and designated panel moderator gave the introduction to the meeting:

  • The boards priority is to ensure that the global network continues.
  • We want to know whats going to happen to partners in U.S. and how can we continue to network with them
  • The goal is to give our views and listen to your views
  • We also want to reassure you that ERA Europe is solid and is going to continue
  • We will all be in Las Vegas, and encourage all of you to be in Vegas too
Dr. Julian Oberndörfer, CEO ERA Europe, pledged to clarify questions during the conference and expressed the need to think about our future role to maintain the ERA family

Dr. Julian Oberndörfer, CEO ERA Europe, welcomed the panel and summarised the current situation:

  • were a lot of rumours about why things have happened
  • what do we know: we got an email that ERA U.S. have ceased operations
  • some ideas about what will happen in the future
  • will clarify questions during this conference and need to think about our future role to maintain the ERA family

Then the six members of the high level global panel spoke one at a time:

Andrew Malcher, Alex Chacon and Jonathon Gregory gave their opinions on the panel

Andrew Malcher (HighstreetTV, UK):

  • everyone in this room knows the benefits of what the organisation has done but everyone has view on how it could be better
  • we all feel let down and failed by the U.S. organisation
  • this is a great opp to look at doing something in a different way going forward and is an opportunity for ERA Europe to step up to ensure continuity as best we can
  • this group of people can do the best they can to make sure Las Vegas happens

Alex Chacon (EHS, Spain):

  • has more questions than answers – has heard rumours that someone is organising Vegas but they can't speak yet cos of liabilities
  • wants clarity on how to arrange Vegas – colleagues have all said they are going
  • maybe Julian can give some form / date

Moderator Ken Daly (JML, UK):

  • dates will be the same
  • different potential plans as to what will happen in Vegas – will be organised either by U.S. or Europeans
  • people can change hotel rooms but they can't change flights
  • book your flights

Alex Chacon (EHS, Spain):

  • European board will inform members as to exactly what is happening and will talk to U.S. partners to make sure European members are informed
  • raise your hand who is interested in going to Vegas (a lot of hands went up)

Jonathon Gregory (Oak Lawn, Japan):

  • we all come together to trade with each other
  • we can all arrange to be together on Whats App if we want to
  • we will all keep coming together
  • we are adamant about people having badges - everyone here should police each other to only meet with people who are paying – obviously there were financial issues in U.S. - lobby lizards come but don't register for the show – going forward make sure we are meeting the right people
Dieter Schneider, MediaShop, Katie Williams, Ideal Living and Fernando Mercenari, Inova added their thoughts and recommendations to the discussion

Dieter Schneider, (MediaShop Group, Austria):

  • a part of our fees going to the U.S. organisation – feel let down
  • big chance to think over what we expect the organisation to be – what is ERA? most important is the networking story
  • we need to reinvent the ERA from our standpoint – all opinions are very welcome – we want to talk about what is coming up in the U.S. markets and U.S. products – we want to take part in discussions

Katie Williams (Ideal Living, U.S.):

  • was completely surprised when she got the email
  • was a member from the very beginning, long before ERA
  • grateful for the enthusiasm from European board – can create something new – wherever there is a challenge there is something new to be created
  • a lot of challenges impacting our industry – video as a way of marketing and selling - a brands story is the most powerful form of marketing, so I think its not going away just needs to adapt – we are masters at adapting
  • Ideal Living wasn't planning on being in Vegas but will now go – first thought 'we'll save a lot of money' but really value their ideas, the knowledge, the wisdom

Fernando Mercenari, (Inova, Mexico):

  • very Important to find a way to continue somehow
  • Latin America has its own challenges which are different from the rest of world – difficult political situation e.g. in Mexico
  • if there is a way to participate and continue doing Vegas we will
  • agrees with Jonathon – everyone who wants some contact in these conferences must pay – they must realise the value of participating – makes the financial challenge to help them do a better job
There were a significant amount of supportive comments and questions from the audience.

Audience questions:

What exactly happened in U.S.?

Answer: this is unknown, U.S. colleagues have all signed non disclosure agreements.

How will you get agreement with 10 different people in the next few weeks?

Answer: KD responded with the options:

Option 1 – same industry people people in U.S. will do something

Option 2  - ERA Europe will organise something.

Everyone on European board intend to be there in Vegas – just bear with us and we will keep you closely informed

JO – we are using this convention to have 1 on 1 talks – we have a contract with ERA (U.S.) - something will happen with this organisation – we are ready to act when we know that we can act/that we are not liable for anything

KW: my recommendation is that ERA Europe tries to act independently

JO: The ERA (U.S.) announcement had a negative effect on our bookings in June – we never previously needed to explain that we are a separate entity but at least we have the capacity to communicate – others have signed NDAs – people volunteered to be on the board and then something happened and we need to respect that – when we get news, we will communicate it. The dates for Vegas are 24th - 27th September 2018

Large audience packed the room for the panel discussion on the future of t-commerce

Audience: what happened to the ERA? Perhaps we should start by looking on the mirror – he read out part of a previous statement to the audience commenting: what does a trade association do? – without us there is no trade association – imagine a world where no-one plays their taxes – subsidised by all of you – there is no solution unless they are willing to be part of the soluton – clearly people don't want this to die but its an opportunity to reboot

Audience: its about global networks and about global advantages – the opportunity to be truly global – would like to acknowledge how difficult it is for the board to open selves up to peoples opinion – global well managed organisation who has opportunity to develop global organisation – feels more comfortable with the people in this room to move forward

Ken Daly – yes, agree, agree about benefit paying dues to U.S. organisation – will do our very best – have only 1,5 members of staff – we are not bloated

Audience: U.S. did not embrace the change in the industry – Katie is right, video content is still the driver – ERA Europe or ERA International? Still electronic, and still engaging the consumer – as we think about reinventing it, its a broader audience now – the contacts I have made through these conferences – without this my business wouldn't exist but we need younger companies

Jonathon Gregory:

  • I know this is stating the obvious but its the 18th June and the announcement was made on 1st June – ts asking a lot to have any degree of information
  • I would really like to be involved in what is going to happen
  • many attendees from Spring show don't go – idea to link to Home & Houseware show in Chicago
  • why not have the fall show in Asia (attached to the Canton fair dates) – could help our own travel arrangements
  • great opportunity to rearrange shows and how and where they happen – good opportunity to help our schedules

Audience Comment: go with different name, different logo – normally not allowed to do it within 3 months

KD: lucky that our CEO is a lawyer – we as Europeans also need to be very cautious – will not promise anything cannot keep

Conclusion round:

AM: it is what it is: we all feel very disappointed – know what the benefits were – everyone will agree could have been operated better – welcomes the opportunity – lets take massive, immediate action – talking about the 'others' – he has respect for them but ERA (U.S.) has closed down and is finished – so we are the only ones left – we need to take action – when it comes to it , choose to support us because we are going to coordinate this – there is a window of opportunity – 1) get a concentrated group, we have operated correctly, 2) go with what we suggest and then redesign the right balance of government affairs and the network and ability to trade

AC: mandate to JO to get us clarity – JO should push through

JG: has great faith that will all be great – the easiest thing in life is to keep doing the same thing – a hard stop helps to create something new, fresh & stronger

DS - likes rethinking everything – the networking system must be alive and must continue to develop otherwise we will die – he is in good faith that it will happen and come to a good solution

KW: ERA Europe is a very well run, solid organisation poised to become the head organisation for the DR world – don't go too fast, be smart.

FM: would also support if ERA Europe takes over – consider being more realistic – just 2 conferences a year: 1 in Europe, 1 in U.S. - summer is not really a good time – suggests Miami as a location, but also proposes Cancun as it has many direct flights and could be a good option

Dr. Julian Oberndörfer: Summary

Thank you to the audience for being here. Its the 1st time we set up high level panel and got all the confirmations within half a day – thank you for all support – good we have a mandate. We will keep you informed.