There was no question about crowd size at BrandSource’s 50th anniversary gathering this past weekend in Nashville.
Dealers, vendors and suppliers filled the cavernous Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center for the buying group’s sold-out Summit, sending overflow attendees to neighboring hotels.
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But all BrandSource members were rewarded with a new toolbox of digital and in-store assets designed to fuel the group’s successful trajectory into its next 50 years.
Chief among the initiatives is an affordable electronic price tag program with SES-imagotag that will allow dealers to pre-set or reset their retails on the fly, whether in response to new vendor promotions or competitive price moves within their local markets.
CEO Jim Ristow, himself celebrating 25 years with the organization, said BrandSource has “blown up the model” by simplifying the process and taking costs out, resulting in an average savings of 70 percent. Essentially, members can now purchase rather than rent the electronic labeling equipment in 12 equal payments over the course of a year, saving the average dealer with 260 price tags some $10,000. The program, which can reduce sales lost to mislabeled tags or poorly priced merchandise, will begin rolling out over the next 60 days, Ristow said, and “will pay for itself quickly.”
Another in-store innovation takes its inspiration from television’s “Extreme Makeover”: a complete store remodel including paint, signage and displays that will be awarded to six BrandSource members and one dealer from consumer tech affiliate ProSource. The retrofit, valued at $30,000, will be completed in three days by crews from the group’s AVB Marketing arm, and applicants will be chosen on a needs basis by an impartial panel. Those not selected can purchase the full high-impact program or elements thereof, all of which are subsidized by vendors and offered to members at low cost, Ristow said.
Addressing members’ crucial online presence, BrandSource also announced a new content-enhancing effort under chief marketing officer John White — the creation of a vast library of product videos hosted by the dealers’ own best salespeople. The sales staffers, culled from the group’s Heavy Hitters awards program, will be flown to AVB Marketing’s headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., where they will shoot thousands of short product clips to help animate and energize members’ websites.
Dealers will also be able to pull descriptive copy penned by expert writers in the fields of major appliances, furniture, CE and A/V control to further customize and enhance their online efforts, Ristow said.
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The videos, written content and price programming all tie into what Ristow described as a new “universal 360-degree solution” called Project Blackburn (named after the fifth highest mountain in the U.S.) that will allow members to control everything from their social media to delivery and installation schedules.
Turning to the theme of this year’s golden anniversary Summit, “Better Together,” Ristow recounted how a handful of dealers on a fishing trip developed the idea for a buying group, which they dubbed Associated Volume Buyers, or AVB. In the half-century since, AVB has become the umbrella organization for multiple divisions, affiliates and strategic alliances including BrandSource, ProSource, Canada’s Mega Group, the rent-to-own TRIB organization, the car electronics group MESA and the recently formed home furnishings buying group HFA Buying Source. Together they have grown AVB into a $19.5 billion merchandising powerhouse with nearly 4,000 member businesses operating over 8,000 storefronts.
In a special presentation, Ristow, previously head of the CE-focused Home Entertainment Source (HES), was saluted on his 25th anniversary with the group, the last four as CEO. During his tenure AVB reversed shrinking membership by forging new partnerships and recruiting major new members including the NECO Alliance, multiregional tech chain Micro Center, and TWICE Top 50 Major Appliance Retailers like Spencers and Grand Appliance.
“The founders saw the value in bringing different groups together,” said Ristow, who described AVB as a melting pot. “Independent dealers are looking to live their American dream, and we’re here to help them.”
BrandSource will next convene for its biannual convention Aug. 24-27 at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas.