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AVB Taking Business With Aggressive Digital Push

Thousands of dealers, vendors and suppliers converged on Caesars Palace last week for AVB/BrandSource’s late summer convention and buy show.

The message from the $12 billion buying group for independent tech, appliance and home-furnishings dealers was clear, as delivered by Andy Kersey, chairman of the BrandSource board and principal of Hamlin & Kersey Home Center & A/V Systems: “It’s an exciting time to be an independent retailer,” he told attendees, while conceding that “I do wake up with a little anxiety over the challenges before us.”

To help address those competitive challenges head on, BrandSource chief marketing officer John White urged members to adopt a new set of go-to-market strategies, and provided an expanded digital toolbox to deploy them.

See:AVB’s New Digital Imperative

In remarks before the convention’s general session, Jim Ristow, AVB/BrandSource CEO, stressed that amid the industry’s “unprecedented changes and challenges” are great opportunities to prosper and win by building upon the group’s rocksolid foundation – and the selling and service skills of its members.

Indeed, AVB appliance sales are exceeding the industry by 4 percent, while the group’s furniture and bedding businesses are up over 10 percent and 14 percent, respectively, over the industry averages, Ristow said. He attributed the gains in part to digital marketing and group financing programs, and a micro-marketing strategy that targeted former hhgregg trading areas.

Despite online and big-box competition, Ristow said the greatest threat to AVB dealers is to not adopt the new digital initiatives quickly enough. Added to the group’s basket of end-to-end merchandising, fulfillment and financing services, members can then act like a big-box store in the marketplace, and even take on Amazon by doing something the e-tailer can’t: deliver and install a TV or refrigerator the next day.

The presentation also included a panel discussion led by White, and featuring Sam Abdelnour, North America sales VP, Whirlpool; Andrew Leonard, agency development manager, Google; Bill West, sales executive VP, Serta Simmons Bedding; and Kerry Lebensburger, sales and marketing president, Ashley Furniture.

Abdelnour echoed Ristow, assuring dealers that they shouldn’t fear Amazon’s entrée in appliances via Sears’ Kenmore line, as AVB members have all the tools they need, and can out-deliver Lowe’s and Home Depot, which require a 4- to 8-day window that’s cold comfort to a customer with a broken fridge.

Perhaps the biggest pep talk came from Lebensburger, who reminded dealers that a new wave of college grads is about to leave their parents’ basements, and that the resulting new household formation, and the need to fill those new apartments and homes, will bring “the 15 best years of your life.”

AVB members will next convene March 3-6, 2018, in at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville for the group’s annual Spring Summit.