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ProSource 2019 “Better Together” Summit

The buying group looks at the current state of the industry and where it is going.

The buying group ProSource holds events throughout the year with the goal of connecting members with other members, industry leaders, and manufacturers. This year’s annual multi-day summit was held at the Gaylord Grand Opry hotel in Nashville, TN from March 1-4 with the theme “Better Together.” The summit combines education, manufacturer product training, networking, and a product Expo with the goal of helping members better understand their business partners, how these partners can benefit and integrate with a company’s business, and how they fit into the buying group.

ProSource was established five years ago between a merger between PRO Group and Home Entertainment Source in 2014. The group now features a network over 580 dealers strong and represents $5.5 billion in combined volume.

My company, Custom Theater and Audio, joined ProSource in 2018, so this was the first Summit we were eligible to attend, and I thought I would share my impressions.

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One theme that was repeated throughout the event was that the membership is a community, and that members should look for opportunities to grow the community. Whether that is by participating in the organization, member s should look for ways to help impact another member or company in the group is some positive way.

The Summit kicked off on Friday evening with a State of the Business address presented by ProSource president and CEO, Dave Workman.

With a quote from Aristotle — “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” — Workman announced, “That’s what this conference is all about; that we as a group are better together.”

But ultimately what matters is, “How does the group work for you/your company?”

Workman stressed the quality and caliber of ProSource members in the industry, stating that 51 members are among the top 2018 CE Pro Top 100 award winners, which is more than every other buying group combined.

He also shared category performance for the past year, with audio sales up 10.07 percent, premium TV sales down 2.6 percent, and CI products and accessories up 16.96 percent. While the year started off strong for premium TV sales, numbers were heavily impacted by a significant downturn in the fourth quarter

Looking ahead to 2019, Workman stressed members can best prepare by focusing on profitability, improving your business, and strategically expanding your business into new category opportunities

He urged the need to differentiate your operation, using experiential marketing and selling. The number one competition is “when good enough becomes good enough” and that it is now longer enough to just sell out of a conference room.

“You can’t just tell about the premium performance,” Workman stressed, “You need to SHOW it. Categories like home theater, high performance audio, and premium displays must be demonstrated.”

Make performance the point of differentiation between you and others, and demonstrate products to provide greater differentiation between DIY products.

The following morning, AVB (Associated Volume Buyers) CEO, Jim Ristow (who is celebrating 25 years of service at AVB) delivered the State of the Union address to all attendees.

Ristow said members should embrace technologies as they come, and take all of these complex technologies and put them into one simple package that can be implemented in their businesses.

While the unemployment rate is low, this industry continues facing the challenge of finding good employees. Another thing likely to impact our industry is the slowing of new housing starts.

“Smart house and automation are the best opportunities for everyone,” Ristow said. “There are millions of people that are DIFM — do it for me — and we’re better situated than anyone else to explain and implement these technologies. This represents a huge opportunity.”

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The question for many members is, “How are these customers going to connect with you? Ninety-two percent of consumers are online, so how can they find you?” To answer this, ProSource offers the member-owned AVB Marketing group “whose only job is to drive business to your business,” and offers members website design services typically 40 percent off of other services.

Ristow described an upcoming project to deliver rich and dynamic word and video web content. One of the groups ambitious plans is to bring top salespeople from all over the country to shoot professional, expert product videos across different categories.

He also announced a new program that will offer a way for dealers of any size to integrate digital price tags. Many dealers avoid using digital tags due to confusion and cost. The new “Trust the Tag” program will load vendor pricing roadmaps into a software tracking program, and then set dealer rules for pricing (follow MAP, follow MSRP, etc.), and then the tags will always feature the right price, whether online or in-store. Also, with the cost of digital price tag rentals averaging nearly $15,000 over a 4-year period, the new program will allow dealers to purchase the tags, financed over 12 months at a $10,000 savings or 70 percent off!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the Keynote speech and different breakout sessions held at the Summit.