Commemorating 50 Years at Annual Summit

By Janet Weyandt

At the beginning of its second half-century, BrandSource is positioned to continue its phenomenal growth and its expertise in helping members access the tools they need to stay successful. 

That was the message BrandSource CEO Jim Ristow shared in his “State of the Union” presentation during the group’s annual Summit, held March 1-4 in Nashville.

His address, delivered to a huge audience of BrandSource, ProSource and TRIB members, started with a video presentation illustrating the group’s history and evolution into what it is today: the nation’s largest buying group. 

“Last year we talked about how the future is coming fast – technologies are changing fast,” Ristow said. “I’m here to tell you the future starts today. We no longer can think about the future; it’s time to take action.”

One area that is on a major upswing is the smart home technology that is becoming more prevalent every day. Many think of it as a DIY thing, but Ristow disagreed. 

“This is the best opportunity for everyone in this room because millions and millions of people are DIFM – do it for me,” he said. “We’re better situated than anybody in the U.S. to take care of them. We can explain these technologies better than anyone. The biggest challenge is how are customers and clients going to connect with you? Ninety-two percent are online looking for goods and services. The question is, are you there when they’re looking?”

One initiative involves the production of high-quality videos, which will provide members a whole new layer of website content for customers. 

Digital price tags are another key area of growth for independent retailers, but many avoid them because they’re both confusing and expensive, Ristow said. To solve both problems, AVB is partnering with digital price tag company SES to offer digital price tags to members at a fraction of the cost in a new program dubbed “Trust the Tag.” 

“If you’re a true retailer today and you have major categories for price moves you can’t afford not to have digital tags,” Ristow said. “With Trust the Tag, you and your sales people can trust the digital price tags. AVB will take vendor road maps and load them into LINQ. You set the rule you want to follow for your pricing and forget it. And it will set website and in-store pricing at the same time. We think we have the solution to check off confusion.”  

Digital marketing was – as always – a major topic during the Summit, with Chief Marketing Officer John White holding both an educational seminar and presenting during the group’s General Session on the topic. 

His message was that retailers have to understand how important their online presence is to customers. 

“You have to think about your website as extension of your store and what you do digitally,” he said. “You need to think like a consumer – how would they want to shop on your site? It’s no longer enough to run paid advertising.”

A full slate of educational opportunities and the annual Expo buying fair rounded out the Summit. 

According to Ristow, what sets BrandSource apart is its commitment to both its past and its future. 

“We’re a 50-year-old company that acts like a startup,” he said. “Our members are independent dealers looking to live their American dream, and we’re trying to help them. Our core mission is ‘It’s all about the members,’ — we swim together so we can compete with the big fish.” 

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc. 

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