Brand Source offshoot seeks to "dominate the high end"
By Grant Clauser
The value of branding was the overriding theme at this year's Home Entertainment Source (HES) Summit, held March 18 to 22 in Dallas—specifically, the HES brand and its potential as a national draw for the group's network of local, homegrown A/V dealers.
HES is the A/V offshoot of the Brand Source network of retailers, which consists predominantly of mom-and-pops that offer appliances, electronics and furniture. The Brand Source buying group consists of over 1,800 members that run over 2,500 stores. Intensified efforts to create a national retail brand for Brand Source have reaped significant dividends for participating members.
HES, with almost 400 members, over 550 stores and $800 million in annual sales volume, has been building its own organization and brand for some time now. Highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities in the consumer electronics market, new HES President Bob Cole of World Wide Stereo in Montgomeryville, Pa., encouraged the audience to take advantage of programs that HES already offers exclusively to members, such as Expert Warehouse, which essentially acts as a distributor to members who have been disenfranchised in the supply chain by certain manufacturers. Brand Source Executive Director Bob Lawrence noted that last year, the Brand Source group's consumer electronics business grew tenfold—an increase he attributed to programs like Expert Warehouse.
Now HES appears ready to take the next step—using its brand to attract consumers. HES General Manager Jim Ristow detailed a plan to leverage the HES brand on a national level.
Ristow, like many others in the industry, sees an increasingly polarized CE landscape consisting of the low end, dominated by Wal-Mart and Best Buy (while acknowledging Best Buy's attempt to move higher with its Customer Centricity program), and the high end. Ristow challenged HES members to focus on ways to "dominate the high end."