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Brand Source & HES: Programs & Prognostications

August 29, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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Here are some observations that Brand Source CEO Bob Lawrence and HES executive vice president Jim Ristow made during the group’s Las Vegas-held 2012 Convention this week about their members’ businesses and about what they are doing – beyond the major initiative of the new ExpertTech cloud-based POS platform – to refine the suite of services they offer to help their dealers get more feet in the door and more profits in the coffer:

• On overall group business – Dealers are “holding their own” in general, said Lawrence. “On the appliance side, business is OK depending on the region. The bedding business has just exploded, and in furniture, we’re up five percent, while the industry is down three percent.” He observed that “there’s been more upheaval among the big boxes than we’ve ever seen,” noting turmoil at Sears and Best Buy. “The reality, though, is that for Best Buy to go out of business would not be in our best interest. Walmart and Amazon would gain, not independents.” 
Among HES dealers, said Ristow, “The integrator community is faring better, and we’re seeing some real positive signs from retrofitting and some new-home construction slight recovery. People are starting to spend money. Dealers have right-sized their businesses, so any growth means their profits have increased. Members are scrambling to add staff, which is music to our ears.”

• Programs – Lawrence said Expert Warehouse inventory levels are up 30 percent, and the group has added 3,000 more SKUs, improved the customer service portal. Major recent additions to the national program mix include LG appliances, and Samsung’s appliance roster is also being made available. Volume is up 212 percent year to date in Brand Source Financial, the group’s inventory financing program; active dealers are up 160 percent, and the $100 million mark in credit lines opened was just passed, he said.

• Membership – There has been a flurry of new-member additions to the HES roster. Ristow attributes the attraction to the group to a number of factors. “The recent HES-PRO Group merger under PRO Source, and Expert Warehouse’s broadening to add brands like Savant, Runco and Harman Luxury, has made us become the dominant player in the integration community. We’re doing $3.1 billion collectively in business (both parts of PRO Source). To keep our members relevant, we need to circle the wagons, so we’ve been talking to a lot of potential members so we can retain that relevant industry voice.  We have about 500 dealers currently, and new members coming in have been stronger, healthier and larger than ever.  On the audio and control side, we’ve become #2 next to Magnolia on most vendors’ line cards.  And we plan to help our vendors grow their business. There are very few places they have to grow business, especially on a national level. We’re making deep and significant commitments to each other.”


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