Bi-Rite welcomed a select group of supplier partners and members to its 2022 national conference at the Sofitel Brisbane. It was the group’s first in-person conference since September 2019.

Under the theme, ‘Better than Yesterday’, the conference commenced with presentations from Bi-Rite CEO, AK Sacur and COO, Hamza Hussein.

Sacur reflected on the challenges faced since January 2020, starting with bushfires, followed by the Covid pandemic, and more recently the east coast floods and war in Ukraine.

“We have been able to overcome these challenges with the resilience and strength of our people and communities,” Sacur told conference attendees.

“We want to focus on where we are today by reflecting on the major wins for our business and embracing the learnings from the last couple of years.”

Sacur gave a compelling business recap, reporting strong growth year-to-date for the overall business, and highlighting key growth categories of TV/AV, French Door refrigeration, laundry, dishwashers and cooking appliances compared to 2019 – the last normal year before Covid.

The top performing category for the group was small appliances, now accounting for 15% unit share of total products sold. Sales in the floorcare category alone have grown incredibly and the carpet washer segment is now five times bigger than in 2019 for the group, as consumers became more conscious about cleanliness in the home.

“Many of our members attracted first time customers during Covid as people were actively looking to support local businesses, particularly in regional areas. Our members supported more categories than ever before as customers upgraded to better quality products that provided more convenience,” Sacur said.

He acknowledged that consumers are becoming more mindful of their discretionary spend due to rising interest rates and inflation, but the group remains confident of future growth as most of the products ranged in stores are a ‘need’ rather than ‘want’, particularly when it comes to replacement appliances for the kitchen and laundry.

“There is a greater emphasis on value for money so consumers need to be educated on features and benefits more than ever. They aren’t necessarily buying the cheapest products, but they want to know the products they are choosing deliver value through better energy ratings or longer warranties, for example,” Sacur said.

Hussein then presented the changes to Bi-Rite’s go-to-market strategy as the marketing department expanded to five team members during Covid.

In 2019, Bi-Rite focused on five marketing channels – catalogue, TV, website, social media and training – which has increased to 14 channels in 2022. “We are constantly improving our marketing strategy and bringing more continuity across all channels with a new and consistent style, which can be seen in our print catalogues and eDMs in particular,” Hussein said.

“We have tripled the amount of eDMs we send compared to 2020 and have seen increased engagement with growth in our open and click-through rates that are above the industry average. Our subscriber list has also nearly doubled since 2021.”

Bi-Rite is also focusing on delivering more unique and engaging editorial content via social media and brand campaigns that educate the consumer about new or different product features such as Auto Dose washing machines, pyrolytic ovens and induction cooktops. “We are seeing these educational pieces translate into increased sales within those related categories,” Hussein said.

“The Bi-Rite website is also evolving with a mobile-first approach, coupled with a greater focus on our knowledge and core values, easier filtering, video content and customer reviews for a more streamlined path to purchase.”

Bi-Rite head office staff with members and supplier partners at a dinner event.

All members successfully transitioned to Bi-Rite’s new ERP system in March 2021, allowing for greater control and efficiencies for purchase orders, invoice checks, stock checks, rebates/STAs, and reports. “The new platform sees all of our data in one place to enable better decision making and allow sales staff to spend more time selling on the shop floor,” Sacur said.

To conclude the presentation, Hussein shared the key highlights from IFA in Berlin with sustainability the overarching message from the show. “Sustainability is top of mind for consumers. This is evident in the rise of hybrid vehicles in the car industry and the transition from plastic to paper in supermarkets and hospitality venues,” he said.

“One of the keynote speakers at IFA shared an interesting statistic – only 3% of carbon emissions come from product manufacturing processes and the other 97% from products once they’re in consumers homes. This means as an industry, we need to take responsibility by selling energy efficient products,” he added.

“At a head office level, we have installed solar panels and LED lighting, have EPS and e-waste recycling, and have significantly reduced the amount of printed materials as we transition to a paperless office environment.

“Sustainability isn’t a new message but it’s being driven by consumers and has become a key factor in the purchase decision so we need to reinforce this message in stores and across our marketing collateral.”