A Brief History About MERA:
The concept for an organization such as MERA dates back to 1992, and began with 12-volt retailers helping other 12-volt retailers. Initially, a manufacturer’s representative from the Midwest, Randy Strunk of Creative Sales & Marketing, organized a meeting between three retailers. The objective was to convince two of the retailers, from Kansas, to upgrade their stores. Joe Cavanaugh, of Stereo West in Omaha, Nebraska , shared his concept of integrating a “WOW factor” into store design, and his way of funding store remodeling.
As a result, one of the Kansas retailers made major changes to the interior of his store, made marketing changes, and held his first-ever private sale for preferred customers. The overwhelming success of the sale, coupled with the changes in the store, prompted the same Midwestern representative to arrange for other retailers in Missouri and Kansas to visit this retailer’s store in February, 1993. Over 20 retailers attended this networking meeting, the first of its kind.
Other meetings for networking and sharing information were organized over the next few months, and all of them with increasing success. Finally, in 1995, the first “KnowledgeFest” was held at a Lake of the Ozarks resort in Missouri . Over 150 independent mobile electronics specialists were in attendance at this, the first major industry event held specifically for 12-volt retailers. By 1996, attendance at this event had grown to over 300 attendees. The events had become so successful by this time that many retailers in the area closed their stores and brought all of their employees.
At the KnowledgeFest in March 1996, veteran retailers who clearly saw the challenges that specialty retail stores were facing held a meeting to discuss bringing the KnowledgeFest concept to the rest of the nation. Joe Cavanaugh, who served as MERA’s first president, surmised that with little to no growth in 1995, and negative growth in 1996, that it would be necessary for the mobile electronics retailers to organize, or face the possibility of going out of business. Networking was seen as the key to allowing 12-volt retailers to get together, and gather important and useful information that couldn’t be obtained elsewhere. And the industry needed an organization that could plan and execute such meetings.
Mr. Cavanaugh organized a meeting at the Daytona Beach Spring Break Nationals to outline the goals and direction of this new association, known as MERA, the Mobile Electronics Retailers Association. A steering committee was appointed to create a mission statement, and to elect a board of directors and an executive committee. A subsequent meeting was set for April 1996 at the Orlando Mobile Electronics Show.
It was at this meeting, on April 20, 1996 , that MERA was truly born. It was clear that the mobile electronics retailers from across the country needed a trade association; finally, the efforts of many came together to form what is now MERA. Thanks to the involvement and interest of many of the industry’s professionals, and their insight, dedication and vision, the mobile electronics industry finally had a vehicle to help its continued growth.
The Board of Trustees met in February 2001 to develop a strategic plan for the future growth of the organization. At this meeting, the Board redefined the Mission and Vision of the organization. MERA’s new Mission became: MERA is the association of professionals who market products and services that enhance the driving experience. MERA provides education, advance the industry and enables our members to attain the highest level of customer satisfaction. Supplementing this was MERA’s new Vision: MERA’s Vision is for our members to be the premier source for information, products and integration of emerging technology in the automotive environment.
MERA continues to strive to be on the cutting edge of education for the 12-volt independent specialist, with its Mobile Education Tour and KnowledgeFest serving as the “can’t miss” events for the mobile electronics industry.