Jim Ristow, CEO of BrandSource parent AVB Inc. took to the virtual stage August 30, 2020 to address the group’s membership for their annual fall convention, complete with an unexpected (virtual) welcome and best wishes from actor Charlie Sheen – courtesy of AVB’s John White and Tom Bennett.
Originally scheduled to be held in Dallas, TX before the global pandemic hit, BrandSource quickly adjusted their convention to reach all members in their homes and offices safely, while bringing them the networking opportunities and convention special pricing events provided in previous years.
“We’re [AVB] doubling down on technology. Doubling down on solutions for you all, and you’re going to have to double down as well,” Ristow said to members and vendors in his State of the Union Address on Sunday afternoon. “You [members] have taken action, you’ve worked harder than probably you have ever worked in your careers…but with that said, we cannot hit the brakes, we cannot slow down. In fact, we need to hit the gas pedal. Why? Because Covid, this great accelerator of trends that are coming, is not slowing down. We need to get on top of the wave to ride it and not get crushed by it.”
Ristow continued by highlighting how members of BrandSource, Mega Group (BrandSource Canada), and new additions New England Appliance Group and Intercounty Appliance Corp. are growing and outpacing most industries, regardless of industry experts predicting the demise of independent appliance and electronics retailers, and showing members are growing between 10-20 percent on average since March.
“You’re entrepreneurs, you’re adapting, you’re resilient, that’s something I’m really proud about,” said Ristow. “But, we can’t get too complacent. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
To keep the momentum going and continue outpacing the competition, BrandSource is introducing a new KIOSQ program that brings the efficacy of the LINQ online merchandising portal in-store. The interface presents an “endless aisle” of offerings for sales associates and consumers to access via mobile devices or an AVB-provided big-screen monitor, and bundled discounts are available for the KIOSQ, the LINQ4U assisted merchandising service and the turbocharged Commerce version of the group’s Alta 360 e-commerce platform.
Circling back to the importance of members embracing online storefronts, Ristow added, “Your website can’t be your second store. That’s the way most people look at it. Your website needs to be looked at as your primary store – it’s your flagship store. It represents who you are and what you do. You need to spend time, money and energy making sure it reflects that.”
Ristow recalled how, at the March Summit just six months ago, he predicted a 600 percent spike in online sales growth for the group over the next three years. Since then, he said, BrandSource’s comparable online sales have skyrocketed 825 percent and a staggering 1,300 percent in total, while live chat is off the charts.
Additionally, the group will follow the Convention with the launch of a vendor and business training series this fall under the AVB University umbrella. The live training will be free for members and their employees to attend, and the sessions will be recorded and accessible 24/7 through AVB University.
And as always, Ristow reminded, BrandSource has the members’ backs, as it demonstrated during the onset of the pandemic by posting over 250 critical articles on the YourSourceNews/COVID Info Hub; hosting 112 Region calls with members; and conducting more than 45,000 individual dealer consultations since Summit, touching 99 percent of the membership.
Taken together, these initiatives and programs provide the components of what Ristow described as a winning equation:
Entrepreneur (the store owner) + Information + Buying Right + Technology = Success.
“If you do this, if you follow the plan, the Checklist for Success, you’re gonna win,” he
concluded. “Not just now, but you’re setting your business up for years to come.”
The three-day 2020 Virtual Convention will be held Sunday, Aug. 30 through Tuesday, Sept. 1 under the theme “Tomorrow Starts Today.” Registration and the show agenda are available at AVBevents.com/virtual-convention.