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Lawrence Revitalized Buying Groups

I’ve been going to buying group meetings and covering them for more years than I care to admit to so it came as a surprise to hear that Bob Lawrence, CEO of BrandSource, has announced he will step down as head of the group by the end of 2014.

It was a surprise because it doesn’t seem that it was just about 20 years since Bob came over from Maytag to take over what was then called Associated Volume Buyers, which was a group of around 600 independent retailers, many of which were in Western states near its then headquarters in Southern California.

The main goal of buying groups since they began in the 1960s and 1970s was, and is, to pool the buying power of independent retailers to match the deals up-and-coming national retailers get from the industry’s suppliers.

What Lawrence and the team he assembled has accomplished since 1994 at what is now known as BrandSource is the revitalization of electronics/appliance buying groups, which is a major accomplishment given the competitive nature of the groups in this industry.

Lawrence began by getting the best deals for his members, but soon after he introduced the BrandSource co-branding program so his members would have a national brand to compete with national retailers.

After that BrandSource championed warehousing services for its members, financing, and private-label credit card programs.

Under his watch BrandSource created the Home Entertainment Source group for those independents that specialized in electronics, partnered with the PRO Group to create PRO Source, brought in the MARTA Buying Group and took an organization with less than 600 members to over 4,000 and combined annual sales of $14 billion.

In TWICE’s story on his decision yesterday Lawrence told senior editor Alan Wolf, “It’s time for some new blood and new ideas.” Well, in Lawrence’s 20 years at BrandSource he has had a font of them.

Lawrence has championed the value of independent retailers in this industry – and not only his membership – during an era of unparalleled pressure from national retailers and major manufacturers.

So congratulations to Bob Lawrence on a job well done with BrandSource. And we hope he will continue to be involved in an industry to which he has contributed so much.