AVB’s Ristow ‘Doubles Down’ on BrandSource Dominance

CEO Jim Ristow commended members on last year’s success and urged them to keep their foot on the gas.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

AVB CEO Jim Ristow capped off the first day of Summit 21 with an inspirational message to members that was in fact inspired by the BrandSource dealers themselves.

Looking back on a year marked by unprecedented challenges and historic sales and market share gains, Ristow commended members for their courage, resilience and adaptability at a time when industry pundits predicted 20- to 30-percent declines for independents.

Instead, members like Plaza TV & Appliance in St. Paul, Minn., which overcame riots, COVID infections and the sudden loss of a longtime employee, powered through the crises to post record revenue.

Also driving the group’s share grab was the AVB Marketing digital platform. Highly engaged members who embraced it enjoyed a nearly 30 percent increase in business last year and outpaced appliance and furniture industry growth by 15 percent.

The next challenge, Ristow said — and the meaning behind the Summit’s theme of “Double Down” — is to continue driving the gains through 2021 and beyond. “We need to let the world know we are not giving this business back,” he declared. “If we do this right, if we follow the theme of the Summit and truly double down, you can ride this momentum and build on it for years to come.”

To do so, members must leverage AVB’s advanced marketing technology, or MarTech, which integrates and manages the online and in-store experience and serves as “the Great Equalizer against all the big [retail] Goliaths,” he said.

Indeed, the combination of COVID and MarTech helped bust four big myths about independent dealers:

Myth No. 1: That independents don’t appear on consumers’ radar.
Busted: By members’ digital and social media footprints and online search.

Myth No. 2: Independents can’t compete with large retail chains on price.
Busted: By members’ competitive prices and satisfying shopping experience.

Myth No. 3: Independents have a smaller selection.
Busted: By members’ well-merchandised websites, many using LINQ, which are properly sorted and flagged for in-stocks.

Myth No. 4: Independents can’t offer an omni-channel shopping experience.
Busted: By members who melded their online and brick-and-mortar stores, enabling customers to shop the way they want.

The other big arrows in BrandSource’s quiver are strategic information and member support, which are readily delivered via YourSource News, to which members and their employees are encouraged to subscribe; through virtual Town Halls, board and region meetings, and member Happy Hours; and by one-on-one calls with BrandSource staff. Apparently, members are thirsty for both, as YSN readership is up 487 percent; the group held 500 peer-to-peer Zoom meetings last year; and some 50,000 one-on-one consultations were conducted with dealers by the Member Relations team, AVB Marketing and Expert Warehouse in 2020.

What’s more, the word is getting out: BrandSource enjoyed a record number of new members over the past 12 months and the pace is only increasing in 2021.

“I hope you can feel how you’re changing the game,” Ristow said, citing the unbeatable combination of BrandSource’s best-in-class entrepreneurs and AVB’s best-in-class MarTech. “But you need to continue to evolve your business. There are huge opportunities for years to come if we do this right, if we do this together, if we both double down.”

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