By Rich Lindblom
I was watching Joe Higgins’s state of the economy presentation last week and a couple of things he said really struck a chord with me.
Actually, it wasn’t just a couple of things — he said a ton of optimistic-sounding things for the future of every single BrandSource member. And when Joe Higgins says it, I tend to listen because he is way smarter than me. He actually made me start to think I sold my company a year too soon.
Joe mentioned that an estimated 20 percent of people who had health club memberships prior to the pandemic will never go back, and this one really hit home because I am one of those people. I cancelled my membership last April, purchased a high-end elliptical, and converted an unused bedroom into our new mini gym.
Instead of spending money going out to concerts, fancy dinners and sporting events, people are choosing to invest in their homes. They want new appliances, electronics, furniture, bedding and outdoor products to make their time at home more enjoyable. And because consumer savings are at a level not seen in quite a while, they actually have money available to spend. This is all fantastic news for every single BrandSource member, because you sell the very things that these consumers want.
But not only are sales very strong for most members, equally strong are the margins that you are all enjoying (see my column, “Manufacturers Aren’t as Crazy as You May Think”). Not only are we selling more product, we are also making more money on the product we sell.
Sure there are headaches that come along with all of this, namely availability. But you guys are far more agile than the typical box store and have learned to adapt and overcome. You are delivering product to your customers faster than the box stores and winning those battles every day of the week.
The second thing that Joe said that really resonated with me was that consumers have changed many of the ways they do things in their everyday lives. And one of those things that matters to all of you is how consumers shop.
Because of the pandemic, online sales are growing faster than anyone could have ever predicted. You all need to recognize that trend and react to it, because I can guarantee you that your competitors have seen it. It doesn’t matter if you are in a small farming community of 500 or a major metropolitan area of 5 million; your customers are researching, shopping and, most importantly, purchasing online.
AVB Marketing has been screaming from the top of the mountain for several years that digital is the future. Well guess what? Thanks to the pandemic, the future got here a lot sooner than anyone of us ever thought possible.
Each of you needs to step up your digital presence in every facet of the game. You need a high-end, easy-to-navigate, fully transactional website with chat and real-time inventory. If you don’t have that you are going to get left behind.
In addition, I believe that you should be converting as much of your advertising as you possibly can into digital marketing. Essentially, you need to look at every aspect of your digital presence and make sure you are presenting the best possible image of your company to consumers.
I became a huge believer in the power of digital about eighteen months ago, when I made a heavy financial commitment to a three-month-long digital campaign. It truly delivered results that far exceeded my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying put 100 percent of your marketing budget into digital, as I am a firm believer in omni-channel marketing. But if you’re not spending at least 50 percent to 75 percent of your marketing budget on digital, you are probably missing out on a ton of business.
There is a new normal for all of you thanks to the pandemic, and that ship is about to sail. Don’t get left behind.
Rich Lindblom is a former principal of Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center in Schaumburg, Ill., and member of the Maytag Leadership Council. He recently sold the 65-year-old family business and retired after four decades in independent retail. Got something on your mind? You can reach Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org.