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Jim Ristow: It’s Time To “Double Down” And Take Action

BrandSource Summit 21 packed full of education, fun, industry updates and furniture

Jim Ristow, CEO, AVB

The first day of the BrandSource Summit 21 started off strong with on-demand educational classes and vendor partner sponsored learning sessions, all leading up to AVB CEO, Jim Ristow’s state of the union address to the BrandSource/AVB membership.

Commending members for their historic sales growth during a year marked by unprecedented challenges, Ristow shared that amid predicted 20- to 30-percent declines for independent retailers, BrandSource dealers’ courage, resilience and adaptability helped drive significant market share gains.

“We need to let the world know we are not giving this business back,” he declared. “If we do this right, if we follow the theme of the Summit and truly double down, you can ride this momentum and build on it for years to come.”

Also contributing to BrandSource’s share grab was AVB’s digital marketing and e-commerce platform. Highly engaged members who embraced it enjoyed a nearly 30 percent increase in business last year and outpaced appliance and furniture industry growth by 15 percent, Ristow noted.

The atendee interface for Summit 21 – simple and accessible.

One of the unique offerings this Summit are the 777 Lunch & Learn sessions. These short-form panel discussions feature seven suppliers – which rotate every day – who each answer seven questions in seven minutes. We were impressed with how informative and smoothly the 777 went Tuesday, and are eager to see how the next two go. And yes, they did keep to the seven minutes.

The next challenge — and the meaning behind the Summit’s theme of “Double Down” — is to continue driving the gains through 2021 and beyond.

To do so, members must leverage AVB’s advanced marketing technology, or MarTech, which integrates and manages the online and in-store experience and serves as “the Great Equalizer against all the big retail Goliaths,” Ristow said as he busted the “four big myths” about independent dealers: That consumers can’t find them; they can’t compete on price; their assortments are limited; and they don’t provide an omni-channel experience.

Joining Ristow on the virtual stage to dispel those myths was Chief Marketing Officer John White. By melding physical and digital retail, members enjoyed triple-digit increases in transactions, order count, online conversions, and purchases through digital ads and social media year over year, he said.

To keep the momentum going, White offered BrandSource dealers a new website scoring tool to assess their sites’ effectiveness and introduced a flipbook-style digital tab for use in emails, texts, online and in stores. He also urged members to utilize Google’s “Surfaces Across Google” product showcase, and to direct their advertising to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which “is how many customers are shopping today,” he said.

AVB COO Dave Meekings announces the launch of the new furniture program.

One big announcement at Summit 21 is the group’s focus on the home furnishings channel. BrandSource is launching Furniture Technology Source (FTS), a forum where “members can learn from each other and get the tools and exact information they need, when they need it, to help their businesses grow,” explained COO Dave Meekings.

Components of Furniture Technology Source include:

  • A recently launched monthly home furnishings newsletter.
  • The Furniture Channel, an extensive program of furniture-focused interviews and presentations at Summit.
  • Furniture breakout sessions during the group’s regularly-scheduled Region Meetings; and
  • A new series of Town Hall video conferences for small groups of furniture dealers, to serve as a platform where alike businesses can gather, talk and help each other grow.

“We’re on the cusp of developing a great community here,” Meekings said. “It’s powerful when members meet and talk.”

Ristow concluded his address by citing the indomitable combination of BrandSource’s best-in-class retail entrepreneurs and AVB’s best-in-class MarTech. “I hope you can feel how you’re changing the game,” he told members, “but you need to continue to evolve your business. There are huge opportunities for years to come if we do this right, if we do this together … if we both double down.”

BrandSource’s industrywide Summit 21 meeting and product expo runs through Thursday, March 25.

See also: BrandSource Kicks Off Virtual Summit 21