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Independents’ Stores Must Match Their New Online Experience


Stores are getting more high-tech everyday thanks to the emphasis on digital marketing, the use of social media platforms and state-of-the-art customized online videos. Soon, artificial intelligence will become part of the retail horizon, too. Despite the flourishing technology, actual brick-and-mortar store updates and redesigns are still vital to create a unique experience when customers shop.

Hubert Joly’s Renew Blue strategy for Best Buy included many improvements in its digital marketing and online sales experience, but a key was to refocus on its big box stores, remerchandise them and provide not only improved service and deals, but a better in-store experience. 

Many times, independent retailers do not have the financial resources to improve both their digital marketing and in-store experience. But a recent contest by AVB, Inc. – the merchandising and marketing organization that serves independents including buying groups such as BrandSource (home appliances, consumer tech and home furnishings) and ProSource (consumer tech and custom integration) buying groups – recognized the need to get their members’ stores redesigned.

AVB created the contest, borrowing from the reality TV series Extreme Makeover, in response to a growing disparity between some members’ aging storefronts and their state-of-the-art websites. Jim Ristow, CEO of BrandSource/AVB, said that with all the focus on e-commerce sites and digital, independents shouldn’t forget to keep their showrooms up-to-date as well, as they are one of their most prized assets. 

The AVB Makeover Store Edition contest selected a handful of dealers to receive renovations that target “Key design areas including paint, flooring, lighting, signage and merchandising concepts to give the stores a fresh look and inviting feel,” Ristow said.

AVB reports that its Makeover winners should be able to count on “a more consistent and compelling shopping experience for customers across their online and in-store sales channels, while all AVB members will receive an easy-to-execute re-fresh guide based on the Makeover takeaways.”

Ristow said in a statement that he hopes the store remodels inspire other members to invest in showroom updates that, following our Makeover system, can be implemented in an economic way.

Four BrandSource members won the contest: Lyle’s TV and Appliance of Elkhorn, WI; Millar’s Appliance of Bay City, MI; Riester’s Appliances of Auburn, NY; and Broadview Appliance of Oak Harbor, WA.  Lyle’s co-owner and secretary Sue Schinke was thrilled by the news. She explained that she plans to point the Makeover crew to the company’s “ugly TV room, which hasn’t been updated since the 1980s.” 

While the winners will initially benefit as the makeovers begin in coming weeks, the low-cost remodeling ideas, based on the showroom upgrades, will be shared with all AVB and BrandSource dealers so that all members benefit from the program, the group said.

As Sam Abdelnour, retired Whirlpool North American sales VP, recently warned his audience at a independent retailers’ show, according to TWICE: “Any disconnect between the website and the brick-and-mortar store will be perceived as dishonesty.” And he added, “The shopping experience should be consistent across all channels.”

Those are wise words from a veteran of the electronics/appliance industry as AVB issues a reminder that even in this new digital world, the in-store experience still has to be just as fresh and new, especially as consumer technology and major appliances become more and more interactive.   

Steve Smith

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