RTO World 2022 – held in Indianapolis, Indiana, in early August – was the fifth annual National Convention & Tradeshow cohosted by APRO and TRIB Group.
Rental dealers, managers, and exhibitors from across the country came to incredible Indy to connect, collaborate, share, learn, honor, buy, sell, and laugh together with their rent-to-own colleagues.
A gaggle of golfers got the event going early Tuesday, August 9, with an outing to the Pete Dye-designed Eagle Creek Golf Club, sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions. With an 18-hole shotgun start, a group of 38 RTO golfers took on the scenic and challenging Sycamore course. Meanwhile, some companies leveraged the convention to hold their own gatherings: Impact RTO Holdings, dba Rent-A-Center hosted a Leadership Meeting; The Premier Companies held a Franchisee Retreat; and RNR Tire Express hosted its Midyear Meeting.
While the TRIB Board of Directors got together late Tuesday afternoon, the convention officially launched Wednesday morning, with a TRIB Group membership meeting followed by six Peer Group Meetups – Buyers/Marketers/Administrators, Owners/Dealers with 1- 5 stores, Owners/Dealers with 6-20 stores, Owners/Dealers with 21+ stores, Regional/District Managers, and Store Managers.
Everyone came together midday at the APRO Awards Luncheon and Business Meeting, sponsored by LG Electronics Corp., USA. The following individuals were honored for their dedication to and achievement in the rent-to-own industry:
- APRO Ernie Talley Lifetime Achievement Award:
Chris Kale Sr., APRO Immediate Past President
- RTO Tiger Award:
Sandi Frye, White Rose Enterprises, dba Premier Rental-Purchase
- APRO Emerging Leader:
Jessica Mahon, Countryside Rentals Inc., dba Rent-2-Own
- APRO President’s Award:
Dan Fisher, Majik Enterprises International Inc., dba Majik Rent-To-Own
- APRO Heritage Award:
Dennis Adams, Full-O-Pep Appliances Inc., dba American Rental
- APRO Steve Kruse Award:
Tracy Cintron, RNR Tire Express
- APRO Norm Smith Vendor of the Year:
Jeanette Beardsley, Relation Insurance Services
- APRO Rental Dealer of the Year:
Adam Sutton, RNR Tire Express
John Cleek Jr. of Cleek’s Home Furnishings/Rentals & Sales presented his father’s namesake award, the RTO Tiger Award. This was the first time the award was presented since the death of rent-to-own titan “Tiger” John Cleek Sr. last spring. John Cleek Jr. noted that his family has established an APRO Charitable Foundation Scholarship in loving memory of Tiger, and announced the first recipient of the Tiger Cleek Memorial Scholarship: Robert Bennett, a data-science student at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Tom Ripley, Chairman and CEO of Lids Sports Group, gave the keynote address, titled The Future Lies Beneath Your Hat: Leadership Perspectives from a Retail CEO. Ripley spoke on the evolving role played by brick-and-mortar stores in today’s global marketplace, and provided his perspective on the importance of investing in young leadership.
Following the luncheon, participants selected from a broad spectrum of educational sessions to attend. From APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III’s ever-popular Legal & Legislative Update to A Superstar Store Managers Panel, from How to Be a Better Buyer: Supply Chain & Product Trends to Solutions for Staffing & Retention Issues, RTO professionals received information, inspiration, and invaluable insights all afternoon.
Day One finished strong with a Welcome Reception and Hot Show sponsored by Whirlpool Corporation. With esteemed auctioneer Lyn Leach of Ace Furniture & TV Inc., dba Ace Rent-To-Own at the mic, the show totaled more than $13.5 million in sales.
Thursday morning brought early meetings for High Touch Technologies users, VersiRent Software users, and State Association Presidents, even before the RTO General Education Session — with breakfast sponsored by GE Appliances, a Haier Company – began.
The session featured a panel discussion – From the Bar to the Stage: A Candid Conversation, moderated by Chad Fosdick of CR Fosdick Ent. Inc., dba Premier Rental-Purchase, and with Jeff Lebakken of Lebakkens Inc. of Wisconsin, Jerry Marshall of KAPPA Investments LLC, dba Buddy’s Home Furnishings, and Russ Moserowitz of Passaic Ventures LLC, dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership.
Once the education session wrapped up, APRO President David P. David of Full-O-Pep Appliances Inc., dba American Rental, TRIB Group President Chris Kale Jr. of Happy’s Home Centers Inc., APRO Chief Executive Officer Jill McClure, and TRIB Group Executive Director Dennis Shields performed the traditional ribbon-cutting to open the Tradeshow for business. With more than 400 rental dealers and 300 vendors participating, the RTO World exhibit hall was humming all afternoon and well into Friday.
The APRO Board of Directors also met Thursday afternoon, electing its new Executive Committee: President Michael Bennett of Buddy’s Home Furnishings; 1st Vice President Adam Sutton; 2nd Vice President Shirin Kanji of Impact RTO Holdings; Treasurer Trent Agin of SKC Enterprises Inc., dba Rent One;Secretary Jonathan Rose of RNR of Virginia LLC, dba RNR Tire Express; and Immediate Past President David David of Full-O-Pep Appliances Inc., dba American Rental.
Thursday evening’s Indianapolis Experience Party – co-sponsored by Ashley Furniture Industries at the inimitable Indiana Roof Ballroom – went from fun to fabulous as Brandon Santini & his Band had a soulful set that transitioned into Rent-to-Own’s Got Talent! Brian Eckleberry of Ace Furniture & TV Inc., dba Ace Rent-To-Own kicked it off with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” followed by Brian Grow of Growby’s LLC, dba Growby’s RTO, Lyn Leach, and an on-stage sing-along of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Various karaoke warriors seized the spotlight, while the moving-on-up Emerging Leaders networked at a special meetup sponsored by Nationwide RentDirect.
The final morning of RTO World 2022 began with an early meeting of the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee, followed by some concluding connection via continental breakfasts and final procurement as the Tradeshow wrapped up. A group of 28 race fans stayed for the afternoon’s super-cool Indy Motor Speedway Museum Tour.
But first, at noon, APRO announced the winner of its Golf Cart Raffle: John Dorrance, President of Dorrance Supply Company, drove off with a bright blue 2022 EZ-Go Valor Golf Cart! Thanks to raffle prize sponsors Rental-Purchase Dealers Association of Indiana, American Rental, and Growby’s RTO Home Furnishings, as well as to all who participated, APRO raised $20,000 toward the APRO Charitable Foundation Scholarship Fund. The Scholarship Fund annually provides select rent-to-own professionals and their families with scholarships to help them pursue their college or vocational education.
“Each year’s RTO World is special, and year five was no exception,” said McClure. “Togetherness is one of the best things about this industry and about this event. And while RTO businesses continue to feel the rugged repercussions of the pandemic, we know how to handle it – we come together as we did in Indy, and help each other work through our issues, raise a glass, and share some laughs. It was an excellent event, and we’re already looking forward to RTO World 2023 here in the heart of Texas – August 22-24 in San Antonio!”