If BrandSource had an underlying theme at last month’s National Convention in Las Vegas, it was “Show me the money.”
And that’s exactly what the 4,500-member buying group did, by giving $7 million more back to its appliance, CE and home-furnishing dealers this year in rebates and other incentives, and by introducing a new co-op matching program for digital advertising at the show.
The initiative, explained CEO Jim Ristow, matches co-op dollar for dollar for each qualifying brand, up to $500 a month per member, when they employ group-aligned digital marketing services.
“The BrandSource team is tasked with putting more money in the members’ pockets each year and helping them grow their business,” Ristow said. “Everything BrandSource does is for the members, and our recent announcements, specifically the $500 co-op match, reflect that guarantee.”
Samuel McVay, a principal of Charley’s Appliance in El Dorado, Kan., agreed that the group “is focused on the bottom line and putting money back in our pockets” through dealer rebates and the new co-op effort.
Ristow said the program represents a $1,500 value, and was born out of the fact that on average, 30 to 40 percent of member co-op ad dollars go unused throughout the year. He said BrandSource developed the match with vendors to help guide dealers toward digital marketing, which represents the most efficient and effective use of the funds.
Ristow told TWICE that members who employ the group’s digital toolbox enjoy a 17 percent boost in revenue on average, and that contrary to at least one reporter’s assumptions, millennials are not the largest segment to engage in digital marketing.
“We’re trying to incentivize dealers that are still on the fence,” he said. “Our message is ‘digital or die.’”
Chief marketing officer John White, who heads AVB Marketing, the group’s in-house agency, said the emphasis on digital services at BrandSource conventions has led to a nearly 40 percent increase in adoption over the past 12 months.
“The base of dealers is growing every month,” he said. “For them, the business is there to be had.”
Elsewhere on the digital front, AVB Marketing has added 60 new interactive features to its dealer websites and, reflecting the show’s main theme of “Tell Your Story,” helped members record their “hometown” tales to build stronger bonds with customers.
“The consumer and the employee have to be the face of the business,” White said. “Our members need to define their brand and what they stand for in a way that sparks emotion and response.”
But not all was digital at the show. Attendees also participated in more than 130 training sessions — a new convention record — covering topics ranging from business finance to succession planning, while a newly launched “Heavy Hitters” sales training academy presented seminars, scholarships and awards to the most promising young retail associates.
In addition, BrandSource debuted a new dealer designation called Luxe, which qualifies best-of-class premium appliance dealers to partake in vendors’ luxury majap programs.
The group also handed out Google Home smart speakers for a buck a unit to help spark dealer interest in the connected home.
Ristow said turnout for the convention was up for both vendors and members, representing the fifth consecutive attendance increase. “We’re working hard on that,” he said. “It’s a real conscious effort, because those dealers that attend tend to be the quickest to adapt and change, and their businesses are doing best. You need to step away from your business on occasion to make it better.”
Apparently it’s working. BrandSource is growing share in every major product category, Ristow said, and is outpacing all the industries in which it competes with mid-single to double-digit sales gains. That includes oversized premium TVs, a core CE category, and major appliances, where the group is shrugging off an industrywide slump.
BrandSource and its corporate entity Associated Volume Buyers (AVB) is a member-owned merchandising group with nearly 4,500 dealers operating more than 8,000 stores across North America, which generate a reported $19 billion in cumulative annual sales.
The group will next convene March 2-5, 2019, for its spring Summit & Expo at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.