By Allyssa Baird and Alan Wolf, YSN
As we shrug off 2020 and embark on the new year, the industry continues to contend with the aftershocks of the COVID economy.
Nonetheless, members remain confident in their ability to adapt, and in their customers’ continuing investment in their homes — putting appliance and home furnishings dealers in the catbird seat when it comes to consumer spending.
As Mark Patterson, principal of Pattersons Home Appliances in Tennessee noted, “Inventory is still going to be a major issue most of this year. But as long as interest rates stay low and consumer confidence stays high, I believe the housing industry and everything to do with it will continue strong.”
Mason Lafferty of Lafferty’s Home Center in Texas concurred. Despite some recent loosening of inventory tightness, he said his main worry is supply constraints continuing through the year. “Hopefully the manufacturers can adapt and adjust enough to help fill the gaps in the supply chains,” he told YSN. His advice to fellow members: Don’t limit yourself.
“Be open to change, to new and different things,” Lafferty said. “Get what you can and sell it!”
Joe Legato, COO at Bill & Rod’s Appliance & Grills in greater Detroit, also advises a proactive approach. “If we can manage our inventories, plan for 90-plus days ahead, and train our team to direct customers to what we have, then we will have an equally successful year in 2021,” he said.
Besides product availability, Legato is also concerned about the availability of employees while the pandemic persists. “If people are unable to leave their homes because they have to be home with kids or family members, then we will continue to see large exits by those able to work,” he said.
Other members cited a possibly permanent shift in shopping patterns, as homebound consumers embrace e-commerce in record numbers. As Elizabeth Round, marketing manager of Illinois’ Village Home Stores observed, “A huge challenge will be adapting to some of the new buying habits people of all ages have formed — and still make those human connections people expect when buying from a store like Village.”
“Yes, it’s so easy and convenient to buy online with us on our great BrandSource website,” she said, “but will that transaction keep us top of mind the next time they need something? It’s harder to build trust and gain lifelong customers with clicks and taps.”
Tyler Wittwer, COO and CMO at Boulevard Home in Utah, believes BrandSource members must embrace the new consumer behaviors, which will consequently “require our business to make major changes in how we market and sell our products.”
“This has been taking place over the past 8 to 10 years,” Wittwer said, “and 2020 just sped it up. We can’t be scared of it and we need to realize that people are always going to need items for the home. We just need to innovate and stay front-and-center in our customers’ minds.”
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, home furnishings and CE dealers.