Independents’ Strong Card Is Customer Experience, Say BrandSource’s Canadian Cousins

Members of BrandSource Canada assembled for their annual gathering in Toronto last spring under the theme “Celebrating Experience.” These retailers are part of a larger buying group for independents – in fact, the largest of its kind in Canada – called Mega Group. The BrandSource summit ran concurrently with Mega Group’s 54th annual shareholder meeting and convention.

The theme of customer experience was a fitting choice in that BrandSource retailers are family enterprises which, in many instances, span generations. Some even precede automobiles and electricity. Over the decades BrandSource retailers have witnessed many changes and have experienced retail in both good and hard times. 

As owner-operators, they also hold a special connection to their communities, one that uniquely qualifies them to deliver the essential component in the modern shopping journey: an outstanding and authentic customer experience. In today’s retail marketplace, the quality of the customer experience can often make the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity.

In addition to the assemblage of BrandSource retailers from the four corners of Canada, many key suppliers including Ashley Furniture, Tempur Sealy and Simmons were on hand. All were treated to a series of informative presentations covering every aspect touching retail today, from the latest merchandising trends to marketing (both traditional and digital) and digital business. Capping off the activities was a penetrating, thought-provoking and entertaining keynote address by visionary marketer and author Mitch Joel.

The meetings also provided an opportunity for BrandSource Canada to renew its longstanding support for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Since the partnership was formed over a decade ago, BrandSource retailers and their supporting supplier partners have helped to contribute over $1 million dollars to this truly exceptional organization.

The meetings were far from a one-sided flow of information, however; member feedback and input were encouraged in the form of a panel discussion. Moderated by Luc-André Cormier, the new Executive Vice President of Marketing and Digital Business for BrandSource Canada, the panel included selected member retailers; Brian Wattier, VP of Marketing for AVB Marketing, BrandSource Canada’s digital services partner; and keynote speaker Joel. The wide-ranging conversation delved deeper into the key themes of customer experience, the need for seamless interplay between retailers’ physical and online stores, and shopper expectations for convenience and 24/7 accessibility.  

The challenge facing retailers today was perhaps summed up best by Mega Group’s CEO, Benoit Simard. It came in the form of a simple question: Why me? In a transformed, globalized retail landscape dominated by Internet behemoths, why should the consumer care about you? This existential question inevitably leads to other fundamental, but no less critical considerations: Is your online presence a true avatar of your physical store? And does your business even show up on web searches? 

The takeaway from the meetings was clear and upbeat. With their years of experience and ability to deliver an authentic, satisfactory customer experience, the independent retailer is uniquely poised to persevere and thrive in this brave new world of retail. Those that do, however, will have heeded the sobering fact that 92 percent of all shopping journeys now begin online. If the consumer can’t find you on the web, your business simply does not exist.

Retailers from BrandSource Canada will next meet for Mega Group’s 2020 AGM & Convention, slated for Jan. 14-15, 2020, and running just prior to the Canadian Furniture Show weekend (Jan. 16-18).