An upbeat BrandSource membership gathered in Nashville this week, basking in the glow of a year of solidly black ink and poised for a repeat in 2018.
BrandSource CEO Jim Ristow was the bearer of plenty of good news for the membership of the three buying groups under the AVB Marketing umbrella: BrandSource for independent appliance, CE and furniture dealers; ProSource for custom install and A/V specialty dealers; and Trib Group for the rental and rent-to-own market. All told, Ristow placed revenue for the three groups combined at $19 billion in 2017.
Breaking down BrandSource's year, Ristow said the group saw gains across the board in the categories it tracks, outperforming an industry-wide 6 percent decline in bedding sales by 10 percent. The group enjoyed healthy growth in the major appliances sector, growing revenue 11 percent while the industry as a whole only saw 3.2 percent growth. That outsized share is expected to continue in 2018, with anticipated 17 percent growth in majaps vs. industry growth of 3 percent.
The CE category also carried a lot of water for the group, with double-digit growth across the board, including a whopping 34 percent jump in premium TVs, 23 percent in audio components, and 12 percent in speakers.
Highlighting the strength of the independent dealers' assisted sales floor, BrandSource claimed a 30 percent share in what it calls the non-DIY "smart and connected" market, encompassing the spectrum of connected and IoT products.
Ristow also reviewed the inherent advantages of AVB's structure. "AVB Marketing is a cooperative business owned by the members. The better our members do as a whole, the more benefits they get back," Ristow said. "We are pleased to report that for the first time, BrandSource members will receive a dividend this year. BrandSource Financial will be returning $3.7 million to our members."
Ristow continued, "We delivered more than $7 million more in member benefits in 2017 than 2016. The average return on investment for our members was around $30,000 per."
Looking ahead, BrandSource will be rolling out a number of initiatives during the rest of 2018. The first one went live this week with the launch of a brand new turnkey web platform for members, Alta 360. "Our job is to provide simple solutions to roll out new technology, and Alta is light years ahead of our previous platform. It is flexible, customizable and offers a hands-on suite of solutions for our dealers and their stores," Ristow said.
Other initiatives include a deeper dive into the lighting and shade category and increased offerings of more robust managed services for dealers.
Ristow also hinted at a program to address the growing demand for nascent connected kitchen technology. "It will be something that changes the way our appliance dealers do business, for the better," he said.
The event itself appeared to draw a record number of dealers to the beyond-sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, with Ristow estimating a 35 percent increase in attendance over last year. “The economy is strong, dealers are optimistic and looking for ways to keep the momentum going,” he said.
Besides a general session updating the members on plans for the next 12 months and some roundtable sessions addressing specific challenges, there was a poker tournament that raised, along with a generous donation from Whirlpool, $10,000 toward the BrandSource scholarship fund for members and their families; the annual Stampede session, in which vendor partners offer one-time on-the-spot deals on inventory; and a keynote by Andrew Davis, author of two books on branding and marketing, on the untapped potential of Internet marketing and ways to get closer to a potential customer’s universe.