AVB BrandSource executives, in an online conversation with industry press this week during the group’s first-ever virtual convention, provided an assessment of this new presentation format while discussing second-half business prospects moving forward and through the pandemic period.

The virtual show, as this season’s necessary substitute for face-to-face member–vendor interaction, attracted “more [attending] members than ever,” said CMO John White. “No one had to travel or worry about support staff.” AVB CEO Jim Ristow also alluded to one positive: that members would have repeated access to the convention’s video presentations and could then leverage and amplify their value by sharing them with other associates within their businesses.

Moreover, Ristow added, the categories the group carries are “doing well overall. We’re blessed with the categories we’re in,” he said, noting as well that a good deal of consumers’ discretionary dollars are “pointed towards electronics.”

He reiterated his State of the Union speech assertion that the group, overall, is “10 to 20 percent up in most categories.”

Ristow also pointed to the growing use by members of online chat tools, noting how proud he was that they “moved fast” in onboarding that service, and saying that support teams were working overnights and weekends to enable members in that regard. “You can’t even measure its usage,” he added. “It’s become almost as common as a phone call.”

On the topic of supply-chain issues, Ristow noted that it is the group’s “biggest short-term concern,” and that while certain product areas were challenged, “we are focused on what we can and can’t control.”

Merchandising VP Chad Evans said that member dealers had been able to successfully exert their selling expertise, when confronted with inventory issues, funneling consumers towards in-stock items.

Among the most pressing concerns expressed by members related to BrandSource management by its retail membership, Ristow said, is “finding employees to meet delivery needs,” which have escalated during the pandemic.

“You’ve just seen three to five years of consumer shopping habits changed in 30 days,” observed White, adding that product pricing, at present, has become a secondary concern to consumers, who are more focused on “the speed to get [products] to their homes.”

White said that the group’s web technology infrastructure is solidly in place to handle the demands of additional online traffic. “That’s not a concern,” White stated.

Comments were offered, as well, on the post-COVID future – and, by extension, the future of in-person shows. Ristow noted it is too soon to know anything for certain about 2021 and the possible return of in-person conferences. But Tom Bennett, BrandSource president, said, based on Help Center questions flowing in from the membership, that dealers were “getting more confident” with this new way of doing business.

And while no one can predict with certainty how the holiday selling season will play out, “you’ll see an electronic online Q4 this year,” Ristow said, declaring, “we’re going to put our members where the customers are.”

(Photo: John White presents a marketing update session at the conference.)