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Midwest RTO Expo Kicks Off In Columbus
08-09-06
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Our direction to the vendors is not to sell, but to train us how to sell. Vendors understand that if we rent more, we'll buy more.
Mike Tissot, President of the Ohio Rental Dealers Association

Harvey Whitehead, owner of Harvey's Neighborhood Rentals, and Harvey's employee Tracy Ervin at Tuesday's Midwest RTO Expo bowling tournament. Harvey and wife Becky operate four locations in Tennessee. See a complete photo gallery of Tuesday evening's tournament here.

Over 100 rent to own professionals from six states and 35 vendors arrived in Columbus, Ohio Tuesday for the 3rd annual Midwest RTO Training Expo. Rental purchase company owners and managers from Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana are represented at this year's premier training event. Attendees were treated to a bowling tournament. Winners will be announced Wednesday. See a complete photo gallery of Tuesday evening's tournament here.

Since it's inception, the Expo's focus has been on training, not buying. "Our direction to the vendors is not to sell, but to train us how to sell," said Mike Tissot, President of the Ohio Rental Dealers Association (ORDA), organizers of the Midwest Expo. Tissot is also president of Rent-2-Own, a 20 store Ohio chain. "Vendors understand that if we rent more, we'll buy more."

With advances in technology, product knowledge has never been more important; and not just in consumer electronics. Front Load laundry has allowed RTO companies to break the 15.99-18.99 per week barrier that has existed for over a decade. Tissot explained that over 30% of all laundry sold at retail is front-loading. "Expo vendors will not just teach us how to rent more product, they'll teach us how to rent better product." Brian Duke from Whirlpool will conduct a seminar Wednesday devoted solely to renting front-load laundry. Tissot estimates 50% of Rent-2-Own's laundry rentals are starter sets. "That number will be down to 30% in a year due to demand for higher end front loading product," he said.

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There has been a recent trend in rent-to-own circles towards lower margins, then "outrunning" the lower margin with volume. "I don't buy into that," said Tissot. "Choice is the key to keeping rates at a profitable level." The typical Rent-2-Own store is 7,500 square feet with 15 sets of upholstery, 8 computers, 4 bedroom, 6 sets of laundry, and multiple bunk beds. "Choice is why we sell more big screens and laptops than some other operations. By offering more choices and better merchandise, we don't force customers to compromise, allowing us to keep rates at a profitable level. Product knowledge, the focus of this Expo, is critical to successfully renting higher-end merchandise."

Tissot also has a unique take on the effect of high gas prices on the rent to own industry. Skyrocketing energy prices have been blamed for what has been a tough summer for some RTO operations. "We like to complain that gas prices are tough on our customers." But that's where Tissot's analysis takes an optimistic turn. "I think high energy prices will actually expand our customer base. There are a lot of people that are going to try rent to own for the first time, but only if we can deliver the proper image and marketing." Tissot said the Rent-2-Own has been aggressively marketing retail packages to attract those customers seemingly stuck between retail and rental purchase. The company will open it's 21st location in September.

What is the criteria for a successful Midwest RTO Expo? "This Expo will be a success at the end of the day if we can get information across that makes managers better sales people. Expo attendees will leave here tomorrow knowing more about LCD, DLP Plasma and front-loading laundry than the guys down at Best Buy!"

 

 

 

RTO Online is the official channel for Rent-to-Own Industry News and the only independent source of news for the rent-to-own, rental-purchase, lease-purchase trade. RTO Online (Rent to Own Online) represents the choice of the entire RTO Industry for trusted information, as it happens.

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