Brand Source has set for itself the lofty goal of becoming North America's largest home furnishings retailer by the year 2012.
The five-year plan for the $11 billion buying group was affirmed by CEO Bob Lawrence during Brand Source's National Convention and buy fair, which sprawled across the Paris, Bally's and Harrah's hotels here last week.
Lawrence told TWICE that the objective is well within reach, with Sears representing the only CE, majaps, flooring, furniture and mattress retailer presently larger than the combined divisions of Brand Source.
The group took a major step toward realizing its goal last month with the addition of the 450-store Maytag Store and Home Appliance Center franchise chains. The channel, which at one time accounted for 8 percent of Maytag's sales volume, will continue to buy its core lines directly from Whirlpool, but sought the buying group's numerous dealer support services including financing, healthcare, extended warranties, marketing, e-commerce and warehousing.
The Maytag Stores, which are dealers, and Home Appliance Centers, which are primarily service shops, are organized as a separate Brand Source division and have access to any product lines not produced by Whirlpool, under terms of the manufacturer's franchise agreement.
The addition of the Maytag stores brings Brand Source's ranks up to more than 4,000 members.
Another big move toward No. 1 status came with a just-announced partnership with Cooking.com, a 10-year-old e-commerce and lifestyle Web site with 90,000 kitchen and cooking-related SKUs. Going forward, Brand Source will fulfill major appliance purchases from the online marketplace via referrals to local member dealers. The $40 million company, which also developed and operates sites for Starbucks, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and, beginning this fall, TV's Food Network, will also accept Brand Source gift cards, providing an additional avenue for redeeming their customarily low face value.
Separately, Brand Source has completely redesigned its consumer and back room Web sites. The former, set to re-launch in January, will be more lifestyle-oriented thanks to home vignettes and interactive elements such as videos, recipes and such features as "Ask the Expert" and "Tip of the Day." Both sites will have cleaner layouts and improved functionality. Lawrence said the consumer site enhancements were designed to make the pages more appealing to women, who make 80 percent of all home improvement decisions, 94 percent of all home furnishings purchases and by 2010 will control more than half of the wealth in the United States, estimated at some $14 trillion.
On the brand building front, Brand Source has quadrupled its advertising expenditures on cable's Home & Garden Television network (HGTV), which will result in approximately 2.1 billion impressions between April and November. The buying group will also be a title sponsor in HGTV's annual Great Fall Fix-Up, a $100,000 giveaway which will also be promoted over the DIY, Fine Living and Food Network sister channels.
For print, Brand Source will place about 600 million tabs this year, which have been redesigned with the cleaner layouts and lifestyle images of BrandSource.com.
Brand Source will also continue its corporate sponsorship of Bob Villa, the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and the John Force drag racing team. Force, who was on site with son-in-law Robert Hight and daughter Ashley, told attendees he will resume shooting episodes of his A&E Television reality series "Driving Force" after temporarily suspending production following the tragic death of teammate Eric Medlen last March.
Brand Source will also appear prominently in shelter books ads and a forthcoming syndicated TV documentary produced by actor Louis Gossett Jr. on the ReNew Orleans recovery program, for which the buying group helped rebuild a 23,000-square-foot community center in the storm-ravaged city.
Elsewhere during the show, Brand Source presented its annual Dealer of the Year Awards. The winners were:
Bishopp's Appliance, Shelbville, Ind. (Mid-America Region)
Bush Woodworks and Appliance, Roswell, N.M. (Southwest Region)
Carmona's, Redding, Calif. (Pacific Rim Region)
Caston's TV & Appliance, Newhall, Calif. (Pacific Southwest Region)
Decker & Sons, Grand Rapids, Mich. (Michigan Region)
Famous Tate Appliance & Bedding Centers, Tampa, Fla. (Florida Region)
Hamlin & Kersey, Corbin, Ky. (Southeast Region)
Heins Appliance, Shawano, Wisc. (Greater Midwest Region)
Hills Appliance, Emporia, Kan. (Great Plains Region)
Home Appliance Service, Brunswick, Ohio (Tri-State Northeast Region)
Lewis Audio Video, Newberg, Ore. (Northwest Region)
Liddiard Home Furnishings, Tooele, Utah (Rocky Mountain Region)
Netzman's Appliance, Webster, N.Y. (North Atlantic Region)
Plaza Appliance Mart, Charlotte, N.C. (South Atlantic Region)
Volkman Appliance, Winona, Minn. (North Central Region)
Brand Source also marked the passing of its longtime meeting planner Max Johnson on July 24. His daughter Wendy continues to serve as the group's event coordinator.