Nicholson’s sixth and largest location is part of a 66,000-square-foot retail, distribution and headquarters complex at the site of a former Toys “R” Us.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Why is BrandSource member Rob Nicholson making a colossal move into a mammoth store when other independent dealers are downsizing or standing pat? Why is Nicholson rushing in, while others are rushing out?

The answer is simple: Just like when he started East Coast Appliance 31 years ago in a storage shed and built it into the largest independent appliance chain in Virginia, Nicholson sees opportunity. And he intends to seize it.

The Navy veteran purchased and recently completed renovating a former Toys “R” Us location in Norfolk, Va. This location will serve as an East Coast Appliance Super Store and corporate headquarters, as well as a warehouse and distribution center to better serve the region and his half-dozen big-box stores. The complex, at over 66,000 square feet, will be one of the largest, if not the largest, retail facilities of its kind on the East Coast.

“Opportunity presented itself when the Toys ‘R’ Us went up for sale in the perfect strategic location that is central to all our locations, including new target areas,” Nicholson said. In addition, the decline of Sears put a lot of market share up for grabs. “If we’re not capturing those customers, we’re not doing our job,” he said.

Nicholson shared his thoughts on what he sees as growing opportunity in the independent appliance business:

  • “You have to give people a great product and support it locally and they will come. We are the last of the great ‘appliance educators,’ and customers really want to buy from someone who knows the product. Seventy percent of people that want an appliance want it now. Our goal is to continuously turn the inventory on the floor, so if you see it you can have it now. Fulfillment is key to the success of the independent channel.”
  • “To capture additional business, you need to belong to the right group to buy your inventory right.”
  • “I don’t care what brand I sell; I am going to sell the most profitable brand I possibly can. I decide what I am going to sell when I go to buy. Consumers are not brand loyal at all. We only sell what we own, and we only sell those pieces that are profitable to us, regardless of brand. I don’t chase products or brands.”
  • “If you treat your customers right, they will come back and refer others as well.”

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.