It’s a Wrap: A 2020 Convention Recap

By Alan Wolf, YSN

It’s hard to believe we’re already more than a week out from BrandSource’s 2020 Virtual Convention. And given how much actionable information was crammed into those three short days, it would be a crime not to recount the key takeaways.

First and foremost, a shoutout to AVB’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT), which had the courage and foresight to move the Convention entirely online. While other groups and trade organizations pushed their shows further back on the calendar, hoping that travel and safety restrictions would lift, BrandSource pioneered the way with the industry’s first all-virtual expo, and most, including the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES), have followed suit since.

The format itself proved exceedingly effective, with many attendees pointing out the advantages over on-site shows. While everyone missed the in-person comradery, and certainly the cocktail gatherings, both members and exhibitors cited the ease of access to vendor personnel and product information, and the more personal nature of regional meetings when children, pets and household spaces appeared on camera.

See: Attendees Give Kudos to 2020 Convention

What’s more, perhaps the most worrisome aspect for the SLT— a digital edition of the Stampede — was executed flawlessly, and exhibitors LG Electronics and Electrolux/Frigidaire took to cyberspace with aplomb, respectively recreating a virtual booth space and corporate park that attendees could traverse with their cursors.

If there were three essential messages the SLT wished to convey through the Convention, they were this: Digital, digital, digital. As CEO Jim Ristow and CMO John White noted in their keynote addresses, the pandemic has had the effect of accelerating the trend toward online shopping by orders of magnitude. And, thanks to the agility and resourcefulness of BrandSource members, and the state-of-the-art e-commerce platform and tools provided by AVB Marketing, the group’s total online sales skyrocketed an astounding 1,300 percent year-over-year from the outset of COVID in March through the end of August.

Despite enjoying record sales through the spring and summer, Ristow cautioned BrandSource members against complacency and urged them to “double down” on all of AVB’s resources.

Echoing Ristow and White and looking ahead to the fourth-quarter holiday selling season, Merchandising VP Chad Evans forecast the end of long Black Friday queues around big-box stores as the lines shift to websites, underscoring the need for a super-fast and feature-rich e-commerce solution like AVB’s Alta 360 platform.

To that end, AVB introduced at the Convention a new arrow for members’ digital quivers: KIOSQ, an in-store interface accessible by both sales staff and customers via mobile touchscreens, that bridges physical and online storefronts by providing an “endless aisle” of inventory and all the competitive tools available through LINQ.

Also announced at Convention: a new Fall Training edition of AVB University featuring a weeks’-long series of product trainings and business courses conducted by vendors and industry experts. The virtual classroom doors open this week, and tuition is complimentary to BrandSource members and group affiliates because, as Ristow noted, “Knowledge is power.”

All told, the Convention represented an historic moment in our industry — a trade show first for the appliance, home furnishings and consumer tech businesses — and reaffirmed the winning combination of independent, entrepreneurial retailers backed by a dedicated team of merchandising and marketing experts. Together, the SLT affirmed, we are taking share, leading the pack and will continue to do so through the pandemic and beyond.

For all things Convention related, visit the 2020 Convention section of YSN.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.