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BrandSource Leverages Its Specialty CE Jewel

TUSTIN, CALIF. – BrandSource, the $12 billion majap, CE and home furnishings powerhouse, reached a milestone this year when Jim Ristow succeeded Bob Lawrence following a two-decade reign as CEO.

Ristow, founding executive of the group’s former HES specialty electronics division and previously copresident of its latest incarnation, ProSource, wasted little time setting a new course for BrandSource and its 4,500 independent dealers.

The new tack leverages ProSource’s CE smarts – critical in the age of 4K TV and the connected home – and a proven organizational approach that bifurcates members into small, medium and large chapters.

In ProSource “We have a recipe for success,” explained Ristow, who described the $4.6 billion division as “the gold standard” for premium CE and cited its 22 percent increase in TV sales last year.

Indeed, ProSource enjoyed a nearly 49 percent sales increase in 2014, its first year since the formal merger of its PRO Group and HES constituents, noted ProSource president/CEO Dave Workman.

Ristow stressed that BrandSource’s rank-and-file TV and appliance dealers can benefit from ProSource’s supplier relationships, Workman’s expertise as a CE advisor, and the division’s stratified membership approach.

“BrandSource is very good right now,” Ristow said, “but it’s going to get better with small, medium and large dealers and will be the gold standard for major appliances, furniture and TVs.”

The goal, he noted, will be “to leverage big but act small” by serving each member tier through regional events, dinners and store visits by field sales teams, and by forming regional committees and boards.

The other leg of Ristow’s strategy is a beefed-up marketing thrust under appliances executive VP John White, who was given the additional title of chief marketing officer. The promotion extends the lead role he had taken for the past four years in developing marketing strategies for both BrandSource and Expert Warehouse, the group’s in-house CE and majap distribution program, and sets a new mandate of creating and executing all BrandSource marketing strategies across all product and service categories.

White said his first imperative in his new role will be to help members improve the customer shopping experience in order to boost customer loyalty and encourage return visits.

“Ninety-three percent of overall retail purchases are from brick-and-mortar, especially for our categories. Therefore we must focus on the shopping experience,” he implored members earlier this season during BrandSource’s annual Summit & Expo. “The in-store experience has to be enjoyable. We will never win the better-price competition [every day] but we can provide a better experience every day. … Just put on your glasses and take a look at what needs to be done.”

Elsewhere, BrandSource sales VP Tom Bennett was promoted to president, with a mandate to boost membership by introducing new recruitment and retention programs designed to keep the organization resilient and competitive. As part of the effort, the field sales team will increase their regional visits with members over the coming months, he said.

Ristow said the new assignments are part of an overall effort to offer dealers new growth opportunities, boost sales, and to emphasize that every member’s store, regardless of size, is equally important to the organization.