ORLANDO, FLA. —
BrandSource CEO Bob Lawrence pushed expanded use of the group’s brand name for all of its members and its new brand ambassador — Kathy Ireland — as tools to successfully compete with national chains.
Lawrence’s speech to members during the group’s Summit at the Marriott World Center, here on Presidents’ Day weekend, sounded like the introduction of “BrandSource 2.0,” saying, “BrandSource is the only industrywide initiative that will help the independent reverse a 10-year trend and create awareness to help independents successfully compete today and in the future.”
He revealed that the BrandSource concept, which was fully implemented in 2002, is used by 30 percent of its members in signage on the exterior of their stores, and 35 percent use it in their advertising. “With Kathy Ireland as our brand ambassador, there is no excuse anymore not to take advantage of the brand.” Lawrence bluntly said, “I expect a year from now 100 percent of our members to use BrandSource” in signage and advertising, but not necessarily in place of his members’ store names.
He added that national advertising available to all members will increase, which will feature Ireland by midyear. The group will “partner with manufacturers to develop ‘branded’ BrandSource strategies,” he noted.
Ireland’s role as brand ambassador will enable BrandSource members to attract “younger customers in the 34- to 55-year old demographic, and women.” Usually BrandSource customers are an older demographic, or as Lawrence illustrated, “In core appliances … we are golden with the 65-and-older demographic. That’s fine if we want to sell wheelchairs.”
Lawrence pointed out that in the past year Brand- Source members have performed well. In appliances, BrandSource did 1 percent better than the industry last year and did 3 percent better than all independents.
In electronics, the industry was down 7 percent. “We were down 2 percent, and other independents were down 15 percent.”
Lawrence said BrandSource will be “price competitive in all categories with acceptable margins.” He said the economy, which he thinks will improve by the second half, and the industry have created a “six-holidays-a-year” philosophy where the industry is “training consumers to wait for the next holiday to buy. What are we supposed to do, shut down the other 359 days a year?”
BrandSource said it will continue to back instant rebates, which are “difficult to track,” but will be compiled via “an online tracking system to make the process a whole lot easier.”
• Lawrence urged members to continue to back Expert Warehouse because it is 40 percent owned by group members. He quoted Jim Tracy, a Brand- Source member, who once commented, “Why buy gas someplace else when you already own your own pump?”
• Expert Finance is close to being implemented and will be offered along with BrandSource Finance to provide financing for all members. The group is “close to signing a deal.” Once that is done, it “will be ready in 60 days.”
• And Ireland, CEO and chief designer of the $1.5 billion Kathy Ireland Worldwide, will develop product exclusives for the group, which could include “detergents, floor coverings and others … products that are solution-oriented,” Lawrence told TWICE. Initially, BrandSource will be able to emphasize products that are already being carried by group suppliers like Bush, Shaw Living and others that carry her license.