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ProSource Sees Profitable Growth

INDIANAPOLIS – ProSource, the CE buying group of BrandSource, was upbeat about growth in new categories and existing ones too, during its annual CEDIA Expo cocktail party, here.

Dave Workman, president/CEO of ProSource and executive director/COO of Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group), and Jim Ristow, executive VP of Home Entertainment Source (HES), spoke with TWICE during its annual event.

Ristow said that ProSource’s audio business “has doubled” recently and that meetings with vendors during CEDIA were described as “positive.”

He said vendors have helped the custom and higher-end market by “keeping margins strong,” which should continue with further announcements “in a couple of months,” alluding to existing universal pricing program (UPP) plans and changes, such as the LG Electronics decision it revealed on Friday, Sept. 7.

Both Ristow and Workman said that both commercial installations and custom installs have expanded for ProSource members.

“Our ProSource committees [of retail members] are taking a more prominent role … in generating ideas for us,” Workman said, citing the audio and video groups in particular.

For instance, Workman said that later this month selected ProSource members are going to visit Japanese audio makers, which the group does every other year, matching its visits to the country’s video suppliers.

Audio has taken a larger profile with ProSource, and it reminded Workman of when he was a member of the PRO Group two decades ago. “Home audio was a key category then, and it has become important once again.”

Ristow added that for ProSource, diversification is the key to provide “more ‘arrows’ — more solutions for our members. We can now provide a multitude of integrated turnkey solutions in non-traditional categories.”

And those categories could include home energy management, possibly solar panel systems, where “we could provide sales and installation training to our members, how to go to market and other types of training,” Ristow said.

Workman said such training will help members avoid mistakes when entering new categories and “provide solution-based [systems].” Ristow remarked that as a group, “We want to create standards and suggest best practices for our members that take on [new categories] just like [standards] we have for existing ones.”

And as for how ProSource’s PRO and HES members work together since the partnership increased last spring: “We negotiate now as ProSource. The majority of deals [with vendors] are for the [entire] group.”

But Workman said that ProSource is not “one-size-fits-all. We work with members to see what works.”

As Ristow remarked, “We act with one voice but we try to get the right products for the right dealers.”

The HES Expert Warehouse program “has been great for our members and vendors,” Workman said. That plus the new Expert Tech point-of-sales system unveiled by parent BrandSource at the group’s convention last month is a “trade solution,” Ristow said, since vendors are able to deal with the group as if it where one retail chain.