By Alan Wolf
BrandSource dealers and management have long held that membership helps independents compete with big-box national chains.
Further proof appeared last month when TWICE Magazine released its annual listing of the nation’s 50 largest appliance retailers based on white-goods revenue. The report showed BrandSource dealers dominating the independent channel rankings with the group’s largest-ever showing on the TWICE Top 50.
The members who made the grade – along with one group affiliate from the NECO Alliance – come from BrandSource regions nationwide, and share Top 50 status with big-box heavyweights like Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Best Buy. Not surprisingly, national and multi-regional chains held down the top perches on the list, while BrandSource’s regional and single-market members carried the middle.
Earning a berth on the rankings, which cover calendar year 2018, was especially difficult given the unique headwinds facing the industry. TWICE – an acronym for This Week In Consumer Electronics – said tariffs, price hikes and a softening housing market weighed heavily on appliance sales last year, although some dealers, including BrandSource’s own Famous Tate, enjoyed double-digit sales gains.
For some BrandSource members, the hard-fought increases came from new store openings, fierce holiday promotional battles, and/or greater sophistication in the ways of digital marketing, thanks in part to the group’s advertising and merchandising initiatives.
According to published reports, showroom retailers are also benefitting from a return to brick-and-mortar by millennial shoppers in search of memorable in-store experiences.
What’s more, BrandSource dealers continue to profit from the slow-motion decline of Sears. Once the nation’s top purveyor of home appliances with a greater than 40-percent market share, the chain has shuttered hundreds of stores in recent years as it approached and later re-emerged from bankruptcy. With their fully-assisted sales floors, independents more closely mirror Sears’ appliance departments than do the home improvement chains and are believed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the company’s woes.
But Bob Tancula, whose Louisville, Ky.-based research firm Senex develops the TWICE reports, warned that the Sears effect won’t last forever, and that buying groups and their members will need to redouble their sales, service and e-commerce efforts in the years ahead, once Sears no longer has any share left to cede.
“It takes a lot of retail savvy to find new ways to improve margins, develop creative strategies to draw in new consumers, provide product service and support, and design more effective ways to manage inventory,” Tancula wrote in the Top 50 report, which derives its sales figures from dealer surveys, SEC filings and estimates based on economic models using industry analyses and sizing.
The good news for BrandSource dealers is that each of these disciplines fall squarely within the group’s wheelhouse, which will help keep members in good stead – and populating Top 50 lists – for the foreseeable future.
YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.