BrandSource’s Lawrence: ‘Never A Better Time’ to be an IndependentAugust 29, 2013 By Nancy Klosek
Besides providing dealers with networking opportunities and chances to interact with suppliers and their peers face to face, at the heart of what was offered to members attending the buying group’s Convention & Expo this week in Las Vegas were solutions for combating what Lawrence characterized as the biggest issue confronting independent CE and appliance dealers – price and margin deterioration. He said those trends necessitate “selling more product to get to the numbers we need.” He encouraged the membership to “think, feel and act like a group,” and to support group-tailored programs that make sense for their businesses, which will help BrandSource increase its collective clout with manufacturers. But he warned against being “a poster child for manufacturers who want us to promote low-margin programs.”
Lawrence told attendees, “There’s never been a better time to be an independent.” He said now was the moment to take advantage of strategic “confusion” at the box stores, citing their tendencies to compete solely on price and to treat customers as commodities as signs that big-box retailing was in its “sunset.”
“You’re beating the industry” in electronics sales, he told the audience, citing figures that show BrandSource members faring better than the industry as a whole. While in TV sales, members’ sales declined 7 percent, the industry was down 12 percent this year versus last. Membership sales were up 7 percent in audio while the industry was flat. And custom integration business for members was up 31 percent, whereas the industry was up 18 percent. Appliance sales for the group were up 5.3 percent, slightly less than for the overall industry (7.8 percent); bedding sales were on a par with the industry, up 1 percent, and furniture sales were up 3.5 percent versus 2 percent for the industry.
“Your salespeople need to sell customers not on products but on what your store does well,” he said, saying the consumer’s proclivity for “self-help,” through online product research in-store, makes that tactical change a necessity. Of consumers who use smartphones for in-store research, 97 percent of appliance shoppers use them, as well as 87 percent of CE shoppers. Moreover, shoppers who use mobile spend 40 percent more on appliances and 34 percent more on electronics, he said.