Las Vegas - Brand Source's Expert Warehouse II make its debut during the group's national convention, here, this week featuring more SKUs, more categories and playing a critical role in the support of the organization's new mobile app.
Brand Source members during the convention at Caesar's Palace, here, found out that Expert Warehouse 2 will enable them to enter new categories such as tablets, small housewares, Apple-related and other tech accessories, PCs and other computer solutions and networking hardware for custom installations.
II is now 100 percent owned by Brand Source, its partner is Ingram Micro, which signed on a month and a half ago when its partner for the original Expert Warehouse, Archbrook Laguna, filed for Chapter 11 protection. The group owned 40 percent of the original Expert Warehouse.
Jim Ristow, executive VP of CE for Brand Source said that the group moved Expert Warehouse 2 to a new office in New Jersey and kept its team from the old Expert Warehouse intact.
"We do the best-in-class front-end and take care of our members and vendors. Ingram is best in class in logistics, so this takes [Expert Warehouse II] to a whole new level," Ristow noted.
Ingram carries 8,000 SKUs worldwide, Ristow noted, and will enable Brand Source members who sign up for Expert Warehouse 2 "to carry categories they don't sell today, like tablet PCs."
Ristow said, "Twenty-five percent more of our members have signed up for Expert Warehouse II compared to an average month," under the old program.
He explained that with Ingram Micro plans for the program were implanted very quickly. "We thought it would take months to be completely integrated with Ingram, order portal at AVB, majority of members have ordered. We thought it would take six to nine months to offer new categories and they have rolled out now."
All vendors who were on board before are now on the new program with the same specials and "We had a record Stampede [dealer sale] in CE" at the convention, Ristow noted. The partnership with Ingram Micro reduces shipping time to members, he said.
In terms of how Expert Warehouse II is critical to the success of the new Brand Source mobile app Ristow said, "Our largest members are pushing us to get to as close to zero inventory levels as possible with everything happening in CE. The box stores are going that way."
He added that "Just in time availability from the store to the consumer," is critical.
"That's why the app we have is so exciting, it completes that transaction. Our members can now literally become a catalog showroom with â€˜virtually' anything we can show with the app being up for sale," Ristow said.
With Expert Warehouse II needs to "complete ecosystems" of products. "We are looking at every other product, every other service to complete these ecosystems, or create new systems for commercial or other areas. This is the tip of the iceberg," he predicted.
We can talk about and show products, and install things, that we could never have done before," with the new app and expanded Expert Warehouse 2, Ristow said.
Bob Lawrence, CEO of Brand Source, noted that they rolled out interior cabinet retrofits with this program, "We rolled out Shelf Source to retrofit kitchen cabinets at one-third the price. We can't control margins on the hardware side but with this we can provide 40 to 50 percent margins to our dealers."
In other Brand Source news, there is an update on Kathy Ireland's role as a spokesperson and provider of licensed home furnishings line. Lawrence said that Kathy Ireland-branded set of knives and kitchen storage products were introduced at the convention. "We are working on CE and housewares products under her brand. I can't give you a definitive time, but we are working on them," he noted.
The first Kathy Ireland Brand Source commercials were being shot at the show with members and Lawrence quipped, "I wouldn't be surprised if they were out next week."
Attendance at the show was up 22 percent this week, even though it began while Hurricane Irene hit the East coast. Lawrence said that seven dealers could not make it due to the storm. When asked how Hurricane Irene will affect business, he noted, "You hate to discuss it based on the terrible natural disaster, but when one of these events happens business goes up because consumers replace products that we sell."
And plans are being set for Brand Source Black Friday offers. Ristow said that the group will be "aggressive" as normal so in CE they will be competitive, but as Lawrence put it, "We don't believe this is good for the marketplace... but we will make the best out of a bad situation."