BrandSource, HES Dealers See Marketplace Stabilizing

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DALLAS — While the industry isn’t out of the woods just yet, dealers and integrators attending last week’s Brand- Source and Home Entertainment Source (HES) spring summits said business is regaining equilibrium after a bruising 2009, and are optimistic about new marketplace opportunities.

For Jeff Tracy, principal of Tracy’s Appliances, opportunity came in the form of the federal “cash for appliances” rebate program, which just reached his home state of Ohio. The Lima-based business ran a double-rebate promotion for refrigerators and offered tripled rebates on front-load washers, which struck a chord with consumers.

“We hit it hard and it paid off,” Tracy told TWICE.

After opening his doors at 8:00 a.m. — and holding his breath for 45 minutes — the crowds came “and it really hit. You can’t turn your back on opportunity. Lowe’s did 10 percent off and we knocked ’em stiff.”

Tracy, who was recently elected to the AVB/BrandSource board of directors, said he’s also seeing “a lot of optimism from new members in these bad times.”

For custom installer Ronnie Zielinski of Creative Systems in Natick, Mass., business “is steady and better than last year. We’re busy.”

Zielinski, a member of HES, expects to be even busier as warm weather returns to his Massachusetts and Pennsylvania markets, and new-home construction, which represents the bulk of his business, resumes.

“The Boston housing market is holding up better than other parts of the country,” he said.

For Greenville TV & Appliance in Greenville, N.C., personalized service, inhouse repairs and a long local history help distinguish the family-owned business from big-box competitors, said VP Davis Williams. His dad Malcolm, who founded the one-store operation and serves as president of AVB’s South Atlantic chapter, said the group’s BrandSource branding program and Expert Warehouse logistics solution have also given him a competitive edge in their university town.

Vance Pflantz, founder and principal of 53-year-old Pflanz Electronics in Sioux City, Iowa, went further, saying Expert Warehouse helped allay multiple business concerns he had last year. “The economic times are quite challenging, the consumer tide is unpredictable, and we’re extremely challenged by tight margins, instant rebates and inventory management,” he told the HES rank and file in his first term as president.

Pflantz, who also serves as chairman of the Professional Audio Video Retailers Assn. (PARA), described the warehousing program as “a survival tool” thanks to its $5,000 prepaid freight terms, access to inventory, and instant-rebate service that speeds reimbursements and helps cash flow.

Pflantz is also optimistic about 3D TV, a “profitable new technology” that he has been demonstrating in his showroom for the past six months. Sales staffers have been instructed to offer demos to every customer who walks through the door, and response has been “enthusiastic.”

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