100 South Anaheim, Suite 250, Anaheim, Calif. 92805
Bob Lawrence, executive director
Annual sales: "around $4 billion"
Number of members: 1,800
Number of storefronts: 2,500
Product Mix: Consumer electronics, major appliances, furniture
Anaheim, Calif.— Executive director Bob Lawrence didn't need a survey to tell him when his electronics/appliance buying group's branding effort, Brand Source, was being thought of as a retail chain by consumers. "We started to get customer phone calls on product questions or problems to 'headquarters,' namely us."
Under Lawrence's leadership, the Brand Source/Associated Volume Buyers (AVB) buying group developed the store branding strategy during 1996, when he first became executive director. It came out of a five-year business plan called "AVB 2001" which was designed to stop the erosion of independent dealer market share in CE and appliances retailing. "At the time Lowe's was in the southeast and Home Depot was just a thought in appliances," Lawrence noted.
Taking a page from the True Value hardware play book, the buying group designed its own logos and signage and mixed it with the clout of a buying group to make it work. But it wasn't easy. "The biggest stumbling block we had was to have members put up signage for the sake of growth," he noted.
Since its inception the Brand Source logo is now part of 95 percent of all members' stores, while 700 members are using the brand for external signage. And ads for Brand Source now appear during such syndicated TV shows as Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, Dr. Phil, Live With Regis & Kelly, Hollywood Squares, Entertainment Tonight and reruns of Seinfeld.
Lawrence said that the Brand Source strategy is now more important to his members than ever before. "Surveys show that consumers think of and shop at two retailers in electronics and appliances before making a purchase. If your store is not one of those two, you won't see that customer."
Later this month, at the buying group's convention in Las Vegas, Lawrence will outline new wrinkles to Brand Source. One of them has already been done, namely to coordinate Brand Source's 10-second and 30-second TV spots with its newspaper tabloid promotions, just like a regular retail chain.
The proof is in the results, with Lawrence noting, "We continue to build brand awareness." And it shows. In 1996 when Brand Source kicked off, the AVB buying group had $3 billion in annual sales. This year Lawrence said his group's annual sales should be "around $4 billion." That's not bad for a group of independent retailers.