Though recovering from surgery for a ruptured Achilles heel, BrandSource CEO Jim Ristow put on a good show when he took the stage at the BrandSource National Convention 2021’s first General Session, which took place on Sunday, August 22, the second day of the four-day conference, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. “Double Down,” as the 2021 convention has been dubbed, was the first in-person iteration of the AVB buying group’s bi-annual gathering since March 2020.
Despite closures and inventory issues over the past 18 months, there was good news to share. “In 2020, you all outpaced the home furnishing and appliances industries by 15 percent,” Ristow said. “What that means is that people who used to buy from that big box in 2020, they bought from you… and in the year 2020 today, you’re still outpacing the industry by 15 percent. These market share gains are five times greater than anything we’ve had for this channel.” Ristow added that those dealers working with AVB’s marketing tools experienced business gains of 25 percent during the pandemic, and urged any dealers who are contemplating decreasing their marketing and advertising spends to “keep their foot on the gas pedal, because we need to let the world, the vendors, know that we’re not going to give this business back.”
Ristow then touched on inventory and supply-chain woes, as well as the challenges around finding and retaining employees due to the so-called “Great Resignation,” whereby workers are quitting jobs en masse to pursue other jobs or opportunities, with more than four million Americans doing so in April alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “I’m talking about battling, like going after that 40 percent that is thinking about making a change,” said Ristow, referencing a recent Microsoft survey in which 41 percent of workers worldwide said they were considering leaving their jobs. “The challenge is, we’re going against these big companies — I’m not even talking retailers — I’m talking big companies with HR departments and battle plans to go after this 40 percent.”
To address this, Ristow announced the release of HR Source, a new suite of HR tools to help retailers manage everything from recruiting and hiring to the often-overlooked component of retaining employees.
Modeled after existing BrandSource tools for financing, furniture, and the like, HR Source will leverage information and communication from its members with an HR Scorecard, a questionnaire that will help identify key areas for improvement in the HR process and also inform the development of HR Source. Also coming soon, the HR Playbook, a 30-page guide that outlines best practices for finding, hiring, onboarding, and retaining the right candidates, along with tips on building a company culture.
CareerPlug, an automated HR tracking system aimed at small businesses, will be incorporated into the HR Source solution, plugging in directly with BrandSource member websites to help optimize everything from targeting job seekers with right-time, right-place job ads and setting up interviews to tracking candidates and onboarding.
Workplace culture has changed considerably in the past decade, and continues to do so, making a clear and comprehensive employee handbook that spells out policies and processes a key element in staff retention. It’s important to get this right today, so BrandSource partnered with an employment law firm to develop Handbook-in-a-Box, a customized employee handbook template that’s optimized specifically for independent furniture and appliance retailers. Users answer a few questions on the AVB website and will receive a customized handbook 10 days later. “Very few of our members have the time and or the money to properly manage an employee handbook,” said COO of AVB Dave Meekings, “but it is so critical for your businesses to set the right expectations to resolve issues, and, most importantly, to protect your company from potential liability. If you don’t have a list of rules that employees can read and agree to, you’re just not fully protecting your company.”
All these tools in the HR Suite are free at the basic level to BrandSource members, with various pricing tiers for added features and levels of automation.
Next up, BrandSource Chief Marketing Officer John White unveiled The Hub, a new user-friendly integrated commerce platform aimed at simplifying and unifying the various elements of omnichannel retail scenarios. Designed with an accessible Android or iPhone interface, the hub brings together a retailer’s point-of-sale (POS) system, in-store kiosks, website, digital price tags, back-end systems, and delivery systems into one platform that every customer-facing member of the team can access. “[The Hub] will provide owners, merchants, salespeople, your customer service people — everyone that touches the customer — the tools they need, when they’re needed, to serve your customers better,” said White. Users can also access a plethora of real-time information, everything from product specs and model comparisons to stock availability and competitor pricing. Out in October, The Hub is available to BrandSource members as a standard base license for $199, for up to three users, but for members who are already on BrandSource’s Commerce platform, the price is $99 per month, plus $30 for each additional user. There are also custom plans available, with custom pricing.
The General Session wrapped up with presentations on BrandSource’s partnership with Together We Rise, an organization that helps support kids in foster care, and the induction of new members into the BrandSource 2021 Hall of Fame.