RTO Industry Weathers the Health Crisis, Moves Annual Convention Online

By Dennis Shields, TRIB Group

With new challenges bring new adventures! Accordingly, AVB’s rent-to-own affiliate TRIB Group (The Rental Industry Buying Group), together with its industry association co-host APRO (the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations), are pleased to announce the transition of the in-person RTO World 2020 Annual Convention & Trade Show to an exciting virtual format scheduled for Sept. 8-11.

Like AVB’s decision to move its BrandSource 2020 Convention online, the judgement by the RTO World Committee stems from residual public health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As APRO Board President Chris Kale explained, “After careful discussion of every aspect of the meeting and experience with our co-host TRIB Group and both Boards of Directors, we have made the difficult decision to move the 2020 Annual Meeting & Expo to a virtual experience.”

He continued, “As excited as we were to put on an unforgettable in-person annual convention in Tampa, the public health and safety of our attendees, staff and vendors outweighs any other considerations in our decision-making process.”

The virtual show environment is a first for the RTO industry, and both APRO and TRIB Group are working with scheduled speakers, sponsors and industry partners to deliver an engaging and exciting experience for RTO World Virtual 2020 convention attendees under the theme “Adjust Your Focus.” Registration, show agenda, industry partner opportunities and additional details are available at https://www.rtohq.org/convention-2020. Attendees are advised to register before July 31, as rates will increase on Aug. 1.

The shift from an on-site to a virtual event is another reflection of the resiliency of TRIB Group and its membership during the health crisis. At a time when many businesses were ravaged by the ripple effect of the global pandemic, the members held strong, weathering the many challenges in their communities, and faring better than most overall.

Fortunately for the rent-to-own (RTO) industry, the majority of businesses were able to remain open during lockdown with assigned “essential business” classifications.  Our nation’s leaders’ action to provide much-needed support for families through stimulus distributions was vital for so many industries, including ours.

Online shopping took an upturn, with more than one-third of sales inquiries coming across social media outlets and website leads, based a direct poll of TRIB Group membership. Many of these customer queries transitioned to sales.

Within the stores, the shopping experience transitioned to an even more intimate transaction with By Appointment Only (BAO) shopping experiences, where customers could privately view inventory options within safe, socially distanced showrooms.

In the recent months of this new pandemic era, dealers and buyers were focused on seeking solutions to problems at hand via our TRIB Group resource network.  Connections were shared and made, with numerous introductions and discussions conducted via online meetings.  On the positive side, many individuals embraced technologies new to them and enjoyed the newfound intimacy of meeting face-to-face via “in-person” video tools and conferencing platforms.

Our supporting vendors and industry suppliers were also generous and resourceful, helping to locate outlets for store standard inventory items, as well as those hard to obtain safety products like sanitizers and personal protection equipment (PPE), including gloves and masks for both store teams as well as customers.

It has been a time of giving, not receiving, with many of our vendor partners openly sharing resources and actively networking to build a strong support network for industry stores across the nation.

This experience has proven that the RTO industry continues to be flexible, responding and adapting to market changes and the needs of the communities within which we live.

Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” RTO dealers across the land were presented with situations that seemed daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible on a day-to-day basis early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. But we were able to adjust our focus quickly and make accomplishments for our own families, businesses and our surrounding communities gradually by taking on just a little at a time, with a resilience and strong belief that brighter days are ahead.

Dennis Shields is Executive Director of AVB affiliate TRIB Group, the nation’s largest owner/member buying cooperative serving the rent-to-own retail channel. For more information, visit www.tribgroup.com.