Ristow Intros Sweeping HR, Omnichannel Initiatives

AVB’s Jim Ristow urged members to press their marketplace advantage by leveraging BrandSource innovation.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

AVB/BrandSource is launching two expansive new programs to help members maintain their record-breaking momentum in the marketplace.

The initiatives, announced at Convention by AVB CEO Jim Ristow during his traditional keynote kickoff, tackle two of the greatest constraints to continued sales growth: The labor shortage and the divergence between online an in-store shopping.

Ristow, recovering from a sports injury, took to the stage to welcome back members to the on-site show and recount their outstanding sales performance during what he described as the worst financial and health crisis in a century. Despite significant challenges, including supply chain disruptions and price increases, BrandSource dealers outpaced the appliance and home furnishings industries by 15 percent — on top of the prior year’s comparable 15 percent gains.

What’s more, members who fully leveraged AVB Marketing’s digital toolbox enjoyed increases of more than 25 percent, he said, while several vendors count BrandSource as their largest growth account in the country.

Rather than resting on those accomplishments, Ristow said members and AVB need to redouble their efforts to ensure an unprecedented multi-year run.

To that end, AVB is taking on the historically tight labor market with a comprehensive collection of customized employment tools dubbed HRSource. According to COO Dave Meekings, the program’s turnkey solutions will allow BrandSource members to efficiently manage their immediate staffing and longer-term employee needs.

Components of HRSource include the HR Playbook, an invaluable but complimentary guide to recruiting, hiring and retaining retail staff. Developed for the independent retailer and distributed at the show, the workbook provides innovative approaches and practical strategies to steer members through the labor crunch, including ways to attract talent; how to evaluate candidates; interview tips and hiring blunders; and QR codes that connect to a series of assessment scorecards.

A separate QR code brings members to the Handbook-In-a-Box, a fully customizable rulebook for employees that sets a dealer’s HR policy and performance expectations and protects the business from potential liability. Valued at upwards of $5,000, the Handbook-In-a-Box, like the HR Playbook, is free for all members.

Other elements of HRSource include a new partnership with CareerPlug, a national recruiting software company that automates the hiring process for more than 12,000 small businesses, plus newsletters, virtual town halls and seminars that, with guidance from employment expert and AVB staffing consultant Daniel Abramson, will allow members to tap into the membership’s collective experience and wisdom.

The two “H’s”— HRSource and the Hub — tackle two major retail challenges.

 Separately, AVB is addressing the consumer’s preference for an omnichannel shopping experience by launching the Hub, and overarching commerce platform that seamlessly connects members’ online and in-store operations. Coming this October, the Hub bridges the digital divide by integrating a dealer’s POS system, Alta website, LINQ merchandising platform, digital price tags and in-store kiosks into a central interface.

As Chief Marketing Officer John White explained, this will allow store owners, sales staff, support teams, buyers, and, ultimately, customers to readily access the product and service information they need, when they need it. Through The Hub, users can find real-time details on:

  • Inventory availability
  • Promotions and price changes
  • Product specs
  • Price and feature differences between models
  • Open quotes
  • Competitor pricing
  • Customer info for delivery crews
  • Builder channel purchase history for fast, easy reorders.

And that’s just for starters. Going forward, regular rollouts will enhance The Hub with text and mobile integration; delivery enhancements; service integration; back-office support with vendors; and suggestive selling features.

Starting with Convention, the Hub is being offered to members in three price tiers: The Standard plan, which allows up to three users, for $199 per month; the Commerce option, which costs $99 per month for three users plus $30 per additional user; and the Custom plan, which accommodates an expanded number of users and is priced based on individual dealer requirements.

Ristow described this latest MarTech, or marketing technology innovation as “truly game changing,” and anticipates that it will “help revolutionize what we do on the sales floor.”

Ristow recapped by reminding members to keep pressing the gas pedal in order to retain their share gains and continue their growth track for years to come.

“We need to let the world know … we are not giving the business back,” he said.

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