Editors' Note: Sears said the rumored store closures were in fact the planned spinoff of its Hometown and outlet businesses and select hardware stores.]
Meanwhile, BrandSource has begun producing customized TV spots for appliances, electronics and furniture featuring celebrity "brand ambassador" Kathy Ireland. Dealer names and logos can be inserted in the ads, which will now be available on a quarterly basis, said BrandSource CEO Bob Lawrence.
Ireland also graces a line of BrandSource-branded food storage containers and cutlery, and a new, private-label, sous-vide hot-water cooker. Lawrence said his goal is to offer a complete suite of co-branded Kathy Ireland products. The former Sports Illustrated model and actress is now in the second year of a three-year contract with BrandSource, and this month appears on the cover of a different magazine - Forbes - which reports that her more than 15,000 licensed products generate over $2 billion at retail, compared to an estimated $900 million for Martha Stewart's licensed lines.
Elsewhere, BrandSource has added new features to its mobile app for dealers and consumers, including store-specific pricing, printable specs, and thousands of additional SKUs, and will soon add a location-based function that sends messages to consumers who are within dealer proximity.
Other group initiatives include:
Â· bringing extended warranty processing in house;
Â· lowering dealer rates on extended finance promotions under the BrandSource private-label credit card;
Â· building an in-house wholesale finance company, and;
Â· developing a central point-of-sale system, a five-year project.
BrandSource will also hold its first bedding symposium Aug. 25 in Las Vegas, before the start of the group's fall convention. Home furnishing VP Mike Allen said the group is doing more mattress business than in any time in its history, and that its turnkey Sleep Source bedding program "is what's keeping the doors open for some appliance dealers."
Lawrence added that the purpose of a buying group is not only to "drive the lowest acquisition price, but also to provide the tools you need to get customers in your store." Close rates for BrandSource dealers are 2.5 to 3 times higher that of big-box stores, he noted, "and if you can get customers in there we win."