Missouri Rental Dealers lend a helping hand at The Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Missouri.

Members of the Missouri Rental Dealers Association met last week to provide community service and financial contributions as part of their third annual charity tour. Rent-to-own associates from All American Rental and Sales and National TV Sales & Rental volunteered their time and donated a $1,000 check to The Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Missouri.

MRDA participated in preparing meals for children in need as well as assembling disaster relief packages for several areas affected by the recent natural disasters around the world. In the past 20 years, Convoy of Hope has been active in 48 states by providing disaster response, conducting community outreach events, directing nutritional programs and sustainability projects. The organization has also brought help and hope to more than 114 countries.

“We had a great time with our teams.” says All American Rental’s Chief Operating Officer Macy Mitchell. “It was a pleasure to spend time contributing to the betterment of those in need.”

Click here to read more about The Convoy of Hope.

Click here to read more about the Missouri Dealers Association 2017 Annual Charity Tour.

Click here to see more photos of the Missouri Dealers Association 2017 Annual Charity Tour.

APRO’s Director of Government Relations Apurva Naik

The Association of Progressive Rental Organizations (APRO), the international voice for the rent-to-own industry since 1980, announced the appointment of Apurva Naik as its new Director of Government Relations. Naik brings an expertise in public policy communications, planning, consulting and advocacy.

“Apurva brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in government relations,” said APRO Executive Director Jill McClure. “We are pleased to have him join the APRO team and represent the interests of our membership.”

Naik joins APRO with more than 16 years in public service. He served seven years in the United States Navy with deployments to both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, receiving two Navy/Marine Corps Achievement medals for outstanding tactical aircraft control while stationed onboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). Most recently, he served as a public policy planner, government relations representative, legislative analyst and program manager for the Texas Workforce Commission.

Naik has earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas Tech University and a master’s in public administration from Texas State University. He and his wife, Ayumi, live in South Austin and have a seven-year-old daughter, Yukira.

“I am really excited to represent the legislative interests of our association’s members within the state legislatures and on a national level in Washington D.C.” says Naik. “We have a unique opportunity to more effectively inform the public and congress on the dynamic and ever-changing rent-to-own industry, and I can’t wait to work with our membership to do just that.”

Happy’s Home Centers owner Jeff Kale and Hapster at Santa’s, or in this case, Happy’s workshop.

Florida-based Happy’s Home Centers is bringing Christmas cheer to its customers this season with one goal in mind—to grant as many wishes as possible. From creating a winter wonderland to coming through with any product a customer requests, Happy’s is happy to play Santa this year…literally.

With all 12 Happy’s locations ready to set the stage, the company has transformed every store into a winter wonderland by decorating with colorful ribbons, lights and Christmas trees. Hapsters (Happy’s staff) are also on board—clad in silly elf hats, along with delivery vehicles adorned with antlers that might have you wonder if Santa traded in his sleigh for a truck this year.

“Our goal is to grant as many ‘wishes’ as possible,” says Chris Kale, Jr., owner of Happy’s Home Centers. “A wish could be any kind of crazy product a customer could want. Our Hapsters will respond to pretty much any request with ‘We can get that for you!’ and we will.”

Happy’s biggest sale of the season is its “Santa Sale” where general managers dress as Ol’ Saint Nick and take photographs with customers. “We frame and print the photos right there on the spot—it’s really special,” shares Kale.

This time of year is a favorite for the Hapsters, “We have a lot of traditions in December,” Kale adds, “and we have a lot of fun doing it!”

Meet Debriel Williams, an employee in the rent-to-own industry and recipient of aid from the RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund.

Meet Debriel Williams, an employee in the rent-to-own industry and recipient of aid from the RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 28 as one of the most intense hurricanes in U.S. history, spawning as many as 50 tornado warnings in the Houston area. The torrential rainfall caused record flooding. Williams’ home, where she, her family of 7, and their 2 dogs resided, was along Harvey’s destructive path.

Williams and her family initially decided to wait out what she thought was a heavy storm until she identified several rescue boats in the distance and was informed that the neighborhood would then be closed off due to rising water levels. At the time, she recalls the road outside their home had accumulated about two feet of water while it had reached waist-level in some parts of the neighborhood. Luckily, her parents, who live just outside of Houston, were able to pick up the children and get them to safety. Williams, on the other hand, had growing concerns about her pets and looters, so she, her partner, and oldest son stayed behind. “You hear about the crazy things people do during times like these and I just couldn’t leave my dogs,” says Williams. “They’re family too and we didn’t know what the outcome of Harvey was going to be.”

Williams and her family went nearly 10 days without electricity and lost of a lot of personal items including clothing, bedding, furniture, and electronics. Hurricane Harvey also happened to hit on the same day as Williams’ son’s birthday. “He was pretty affected by it,” shares Williams. “Honestly, we didn’t think it was going to be that bad. We thought maybe the lights would flicker on and off for a day at most, but it was totally opposite of what I expected. I’ve never experienced something like this.”

Williams and her family have relocated to an apartment and are currently on the road to recovery. “It’s a work in progress. Slowly but surely, we’re getting back to normalcy,” says Williams. “Working in rent-to-own, I’ve heard a lot of stories from our customers who have lost a great deal—I am blessed that I didn’t lose any family members to the hurricane. I really do greatly appreciate the help…I would not be where I am now, in my apartment, without the help of APRO members.”

For Debriel and others, the RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund is a bit of hope in a difficult situation. Join APRO in giving back by donating! Click here to donate online, or contact us at 800/204-2776, ext. 111

ORDA President Mike Tissot, former President of the Ohio Senate Tom Niehaus, APRO Executive Director Jill McClure and ORDA Lobbyist David Hoeffel

Last week, APRO Executive Director Jill McClure visited members of the Ohio Rental Dealers Association (ORDA) and ORDA’s lobbyists, Vorys Advisors. She visited Rent-2-Own stores in Waverly and Chillicothe with ORDA president and  Rent-2-Own owner Mike Tissot and Showplace Rent to Own in Marion with owner and APRO past president Gary Ferriman. McClure also toured each company’s warehouses and headquarter offices. “It was an excellent visit – two solid examples of how leading operators are innovating, and creating a customer-focused culture in their companies,” shares McClure. “I was most impressed by seeing firsthand the dedication of the store managers and employees. The employees love their customers. They work hard to provide the most positive experience possible for them.”

McClure also had the opportunity to see the new RNR Tire Express currently under construction in Marion, Ohio. ORDA vice president, Keith Ferriman, is the owner and operator of the new store set to open in January.

McClure, along with Tissot and Ferriman, met with ORDA lobbyist David Hoeffel of Vorys Advisors to discuss current issues and events affecting operators in Ohio. Former president of the Ohio Senate, Tom Niehaus, currently with Vorys Advisors, also joined the meeting.

Click here to see more photos of APRO on the Go in Ohio.

Longtime APRO Associate Member Central File Marketing, a provider of data-driven direct mail marketing campaigns serving the rent-to-own industry for more than three decades, recently announced that the company has been acquired by Anstadt Communications. Anstadt Communications is an integrated marketing and graphics communications company with a 139-year history.

Through the acquisition, Central File customers will benefit from the support and innovative offerings such as increased capacity to handle growing market volume demands, new technologies and capabilities to aid in generating new demand through solutions such as POS/POP displays and in-store signage, along with other exciting tools and technologies geared towards enhancing the customer experience.

“Central File Marketing will remain highly focused on the rent-to-own industry to ensure minimal interruptions for current clients as we improve the client experience and continue to exceed expectations,” says APRO Vendor of the Year recipient and APRO Vendor Advisory Committee member Al Benson, vice president of Central File Marketing. “We’re thrilled to join the Anstadt Communications family, and look forward to integrating the businesses to harness all of the benefits for our current and future clients.”

Anstadt’s acquisition of Central File adds data-driven direct marketing and promotions to its portfolio of marketing products and services, specifically for the rent-to-own industry. Through Central File’s extensive experience and proprietary data management system, Anstadt will be able to better serve clients in developing and executing highly effective and targeted direct-marketing campaigns. 

“As a fifth-generation family-owned company, Anstadt strives to constantly enhance our offerings to generate greater outcomes for our current and existing customers,” says Matt Doran, president and CEO of Anstadt Communications. “Central File strengthens our company by delivering data-driven direct marketing campaigns that will have an instant impact on outcomes we can produce for our clients and enable our organization to continue to innovate and deliver top-tier solutions.” 

Anstadt Communications and Central File Marketing will continue to operate as separately branded entities, specializing in their respective fields while sharing resources to bring added value to their customer base.

 

APRO’s Legislative Conference is the most important event of the year for the rent-to-own industry. It is open to seasoned Washington advocates as well as to conference and industry newcomers. This year’s event will be held February 7-9 in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Court Hotel, located within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol. APRO invites rental dealers and vendors of all sizes to come to Washington to advocate for issues that are critical to a thriving rent-to-own industry.

With more than 60 new senators and representatives inaugurated earlier this year, it is crucial that they are aware of, and understand, the rent-to-own industry and its benefits for the U.S. economy. APRO’s Legislative Conference is the perfect vehicle to make that happen. “We are not actively pushing a bill right now, although we will always be alert for opportunities to define our transaction at the federal level,” says APRO board member and Rent-A-Center vice present and assistant general counsel Matt Grynwald. “There are newly elected members of congress who have no idea what rent-to-own is and if I am your opponent, these are the people I am going to go find and try to influence.” APRO’s Legislative Conference is invaluable to the industry as it provides the platform to speak directly to decision makers in person. “We go there to make sure that when that opponent walks into someone’s office, they have at least heard of rent-to-own and from someone who lives there, works there, employs people there and votes there,” says Grynwald.

It also is important to renew relationships with more seasoned lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill, to let them know that the RTO industry remains vital and that we continue to monitor legislation that might affect the transaction. Without the positive relationships that APRO members have fostered with members of Congress over the years, the rent-to-own industry would not exist today. Many critical attacks would have crippled our ability to do business. Creating and maintaining such relationships has staved off multiple challenges to the RTO industry while also helping members of Congress and their staffs better understand the benefits of the business.

No one can tell the rent-to-own story better than you. You know how to run the business. You know inherently how to talk about it because you live it and the good news is, we’re not asking for anything. The Huffington Post online reports that members of Congress consistently say they much prefer to hear from real people from their home states on how legislation or regulation impact their lives. APRO’s Legislative Conference is a tangible opportunity to be heard. We provide all the information for you to meet with your elected officials and educate you on the full spectrum of issues that are most pressing to rent-to-own today.

The 2018 conference will begin with a briefing breakfast on Thursday, February 8, at the Executive Room located at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill. After the briefing, the group will head to Capitol Hill for scheduled meetings with their members of Congress over the next day and a half. On Thursday evening, Legislative Conference participants are invited to a reception and dinner at The International Spy Museum, a museum solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history and continues to have a significant impact on world events. Click here to download a schedule.

Help protect the future of our industry while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow APRO members and a slice of Washington, D.C. To register, contact us at 800/204-2776, ext. 111, or at twendele@rtohq.org. There is no cost for registration, the debriefing breakfast or the networking dinner at The International Spy Museum. Attendees need to make their hotel reservations and travel plans on their own. Click here to reserve your APRO discounted room at the Washington Court Hotel online, or call 800/321-3010. APRO has blocked a set of rooms under the code of “180207APRO” at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill. The deadline for hotel registration is January 8, 2018.

Regional managers from Aaron’s Inc. met this week to provide community service and financial contributions to the O’Donnell Heights Boys & Girls Club in Baltimore, Maryland. The company donated $28,000 worth of upgrades for the organization’s teen room along with volunteering time to patch up and paint the space.

“Just to see the kids smile is enough,” says Billy Hardison, regional manager of Aaron’s Baltimore. “To give high-risk youths the opportunity to come to a safe place to relax, have fun and just be a kid is the greatest reward.”

The O’Donnell Heights Boys & Girls Club services 50 to 60 kids on a daily basis and the teen room renovations will help bring more kids into the organization. “We had some couches and televisions, but now thanks to Aaron’s, kids will want to come spend time here,” says Matthew Death, vice president of corporate and business partnerships of the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. “This is a complete wish list—a dream of what our youths want.”

The event marked the 24th refresh by Aaron’s in communities across the United States. Aaron’s community outreach project was recognized by local television station WJZ.

Click here to view the WJZ news story.

RNR Tire Express 100th store opening in Sarasota, Florida.

RNR Tire Express, the fastest-growing tire and custom wheel franchise in the nation, recently announced the opening of its 100th location in Sarasota, Florida. RNR has opened one new location every month for the past 30 months, helping the company achieve this landmark milestone.

Founded in 2000 by longtime RTO veteran and APRO Hall of Honor recipient Larry Sutton, RNR Tire Express offers tires and custom wheels with payment plans. With a corporate culture that allows franchisees to have a high degree of entrepreneurial freedom and a proven record of same-store revenue growth of 20 percent for three consecutive years, the brand is seeking additional qualified multi-unit franchisees in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Utah, Oregon and Idaho, among other states.

“This is a really exciting time in our brand’s history, as we are entering new markets and opening stores at a record pace,” says Sutton. “RNR continues to succeed and grow as people seek more affordable options when it comes to quality tires and wheels. Due to the demand for our pay-as-you-go model we plan to add an additional 16 stores to our roster before the end of the year.”

RNR Tire Express will host a grand opening celebration on November 18 in Sarasota, Florida, to thank customers for their support throughout the Southeast. For more information about RNR and its franchise opportunities, visit www.RNRfranchise.com.

Service Rep Rodeo winning team of Cody Arner and Aaron Derck with company founder and owner Dan Fisher.

On October 25, Mijik Rent-to-Own held its Fourth Annual Service Rep Rodeo in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Twelve teams convened for a day of informational sessions, competition, fun and food. Participants underwent training followed by competing in various real-life simulated stations. Attendees received Majik t-shirts, caps and a lunch prepared by company founder and owner Dan Fisher and his family.

“This day is about celebrating our unsung heroes,” says Fisher. “While it is about training and competition—it’s really about letting associates know how much they are appreciated. I think that message was delivered loud and clear.”

First-place winners were newcomers Cody Arner and Aaron Derck from Majick in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. “It’s reassuring to know that our training process works. Cody is currently a manager-in-training, working through the process, while Aaron is a new service rep recruit who has been impressing us since day one,” shares Fisher. “Raymond Adames, the store manager who trained them both, was beaming when we told him his guys won!”

Click here to see more pictures of Majik’s 2017 Quality Service Rep Rodeo.