The National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers nominees for its merchandisers of the year awards, includes 14 first-time selections, according to NARM president Jim Donio. The winners will be unveiled on the last night of the NARM annual convention, Apr. 29-May 2 in Chicago.

In the large retail division, the nominees are two big box stores, Best Buy in Richfield, Minn., and Target Stores in Minneapolis; two online merchants, in Seattle and iTunes in Cupertino, Calif.; and two multi-media merchants, Borders Group in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Hastings Entertainment in
Amarillo Texas.

It is the first time that a traditional music specialist hasn't been nominated for this award in recent memory, going back to 1990. For the last three years, the now-defunct Tower Records won the award. In the medium retail division, the nomination of Waterloo Records & Video in Austin, Texas gives the merchant a chance for three-peat. Other contenders include Dimple Records in Sacramento, Calif.; J&R Music World in New York; Music Millennium in Portland, Ore.; Newbury Comics in Brighton, Mass., and first-time nominee Value Music in Mariotta, Ga.

For the first time the small division has been divided into two size categories, small division one and small division two. NARM doesn't reveal the revenue thresholds of its categories, but Billboard estimates that small division one consists of merchants with less than $5 million, while small division two is for merchants between $5 million and $20 million. While we're at it, Billboard estimates that the medium retail division is for merchants with revenues from $20 million to $100 million, while the large category is for anything above $100 million.

The small retail division two nominees are Electric Fetus, Minneapolis, Minn.; Gallery of Sound in Wilkes, Barre, Pa.; Record & Tape Traders, Inc. in Owings Mills, Md.; and Twist & Shout in Denver, with the middle two believed to be first-time nominees. The latter merchant is the defending champion with a six-year win streak under its belt for the old small division category.

The smallest retail division one nominees are Criminal Records in Atlanta;
Easy Street Records in Seattle, Wash.; Hot Poop! in Walla Walla, Wash; and Silver Platters in Bellevue, Wash. The latter two are believed to be first-time nominees.

Moving on to the wholesaler of the year awards, the nominees for the large category are Alliance Entertainment Corp. in Coral Springs, Fla., which has won for the last two years; Anderson Merchandisers in Amarillo, Texas; and Handleman Co. in Troy, Mich.

In the medium division, the nominees are Arrow Distributing Co. in Streetsboro, Ohio; Galaxy Music Distributors in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Super D/Phantom in Irvine, Calif., and Baker & Taylor in Charlotte, N.C., which has won for the last three years.

The small wholesale division nominees are let by Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, which is NARM's reigning award winner having dominated this category with seven consecutive awards. Also nominated in this category are Distribution Video & Audio Burbank, Calif.; Liaison Records in Laurel, Md.; and apparent first-time nominee Js Record & Tapes in Chicago.

Moving onto distributor of the year, the four majors are the nominees: EMI
Music Marketing in Hollywood; New York-based WEA, which won last year; Universal Music Group Distribution in Universal City, Calif.; and Sony BMG Music Entertainment Sales in New York, now known as Sony BMG Global Digital Business & U.S. Sales

In the medium distributor division the nominees are Alternative Distribution
Alliance in New York; Fontana Distribution in Universal City, Calif; Ryko Distribution in New York; and RED in New York, which has won it for the last two years. For the first time all nominees in this category are owned by the majors: the WMG owns ADA and Ryko; Universal owns Fontana; and Sony BMG own RED.

In the small distributor of the year division, nominees are Red Eye in Haw River, N.C., which has won for the last four years; Burnside Distribution in
Portland, Ore.; and Big Daddy in Kenilworth, N.J.

Moving over to the labels, the large division nominees are Capitol Records in Hollywood, Calif.; Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records in Santa Monica, Calif; Island Def Jam Group in New York; defending champ Rhino Entertainment in Burbank, Calif; Sony Music Labels Sales in New York; and Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, Calif.

The medium division nominees are the Blue Note Label Group in New York; Epitaph in Los Angeles; Hollywood Records in Burbank, Calif.; and Walt Disney Records in Burbank, Calif.

In the small label division, the nominees are ATO Records in New York; Hopeless Records in Van Nuys, Calif.; New West Records in Beverly Hills, Calif.; Putumayo World Music in New York; and Righteous Babe Records in Buffalo, N.Y.

In the related supplier category, the nominees are the Almighty Institute of Music Retail in Studio City, Calif.; Muze in New York; Nielsen Soundscan in White Plains, N.Y.; Rocket Science in Encino, Calif.; and Billboard Information Group in New York.