By Alan Wolf and Allyssa Baird, YSN
BrandSource dealers are generally reporting solid sales amid the health crisis, limited only by product availability.
Checking in during this week’s third round of Region Call-Ins, members around the country said their appliance and TV businesses have been surprisingly good, with some actually citing record sales. Even mattress demand, which had been soft in preceding weeks, came back in a big way for a number of dealers.
“I almost feel guilty about how good business is,” one Southeast Region member reported. “People are buying.” Added another Southeast dealer, “March and April were the two biggest consecutive months we ever had.” Similarly, “We’re going full bore right now,” a Rocky Mountain member said on a call. “It’s almost exhausting at times.”
Members believe they are riding the crest of consumers’ tax refunds and CARES Act stimulus payments, and are benefitting from last month’s store closures at Best Buy and inventory hang ups at The Home Depot. Consequently, both dealers and AVB staff expressed caution about the coming weeks as the box stores resume full operation, unemployment ranks swell, further COVID-19 outbreaks could occur, and vendors continue to contend with intermittent factory closures.
The latter, according to AVB team members on the call, has led to inventory constraints that could last until mid-summer, and dealers are already feeling the pinch. “Availability continues to be a huge challenge,” acknowledged one dealer. Added another, “Customers need to get used to a three- to five-week lead time.”
AVB’s advice: keep checking your sources for sudden buying opportunities; be ready to pivot, at least temporarily, to previously untried brands; create customer wait lists; and comb your warehouses for scratch-and-dent items and other unsold inventory.
As BrandSource President Tom Bennett noted, “In-stock is winning right now,” and advised members to flag all available products online.
Another consequence of the tight inventory is a dearth of vendor-sponsored Memorial Day and July 4 sales events. Instead, said Danielle Diaz, AVB’s Senior Director of Marketing, dealers should stage their own hometown promotions by honoring local heroes, staging flash sales or virtual tent sales, and highlighting same- or next-day delivery and zero-percent financing offers through the BrandSource/Citi credit card.
Elsewhere during the calls, members said they are largely adhering to strict health and safety protocols within their showrooms and among their service and delivery teams, although some customers are starting to show less concern about coronavirus. “All customer precautions have ceased,” one member related. “They’re over it and aren’t being diligent like they were.”
One way to control foot traffic and while boosting revenue is to limit store visits to appointment only. Customers who book appointments are essentially pre-sold, Bennett said, and the close rate on these shoppers averages 90 percent or better. Other members, meanwhile, are doing a bang-up business via phone sales, although some are struggling to keep up with the calls. “The phones are ringing off the hook,” one dealer said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
The next series of Region Call-Ins is scheduled for May 27 and 28. Check your email and the Backroom for times and dial-in numbers. —Additional reporting by Allyssa Baird
BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.