Circuit City Unplugged9 Mar, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf
What is it about Circuit City? I never shop there. And actually, I can't name anyone I know who does regularly. With all the recent organizational announcements coming out of the electronics chain, it's been on my mind, and I've been wondering what it is about this chain that keeps it from being a choice shopping destination for me and my nearest and dearest.
Granted, my software shopping destination of choice is Amoeba Records, but there are only a couple of those in the world, let alone in the Valley, so I am forced to make other decisions when it comes to my consumer electronics needs. Within walking distance from my office are a Fry's Electronics, a Circuit City, a Tower Records and a Best Buy.
I often go to Best Buy and Tower to pick up something or simply browse on a lunch break, but rarely shop at either of the other two. I'll stop in to check out what they are doing, keeping dibs on them for the magazine, but never for my own personal enjoyment, and I never make a purchase.
On Super Bowl Sunday, my boyfriend noticed a Circuit City ad for a great deal on a new TV set, so we hopped into the car and headed for the nearest location after checking to make sure it was in stock. We walked into the store, went directly to the TV section, found the one from the ad, grabbed a clerk, paid for it, picked up the merchandise and left the store almost immediately. In fact, while we waited for the TV to make it to the merchandise counter, we just sat there at said counter. We didn't browse, like we do at pretty much any other electronics store, we didn't look at DVDs, CDs, computer or phone equipment. We just got what we wanted and left.
It's strange; it was a completely nonstimulating shopping experience, so different from walking into a Best Buy, for example. For some reason, these stores just ooze entertainment. They have snappy merchandising, huge layouts, bustling crew members, loud music and there's just a ton of stuff to look at and investigate even if you haven't the slightest intention of buying. I feel much the same at Tower locations, with all the music kiosks keeping me entertained and the stock of licensed goods, games, magazines and action figures to gawk at.
There's a browsing mentality missing at Circuit City, which is what I think keeps me and perhaps some of my like-minded shoppers away.
About 13 years ago, I had a friend who worked for Circuit City. She loved her job, because she made great commissions. She wore a suit every day, and was very professional and serious about her monthly sales numbers and her warranty add-ons. When I think back to shopping at that store then (mostly for stereo equipment in those days for me), it was kind of a serious experience — and usually, it was a serious expenditure as well.
But these days I think we like to be entertained as we are shelling out the hard-earned cash. We're not just buying products — more things to collect dust in our already cluttered home entertainment setups — we're buying experiences. The home theater and home entertainment products that are out there these days are designed to create an in-home experience. Why not create an interactive, experience-laden atmosphere at the shopping level?
Circuit City is making some changes these days, which is good. I think it needs to. The chain has all the products and some great deals like its competitors, it's just that some other retailers are doing it a little bit better, with a bit more of an edge that keeps consumers coming back for more.
With all the emerging technologies, Circuit City should be seeing dollar signs these days. They'd better hook those shoppers now, so they'll be back when they're ready for next-generation hardware and software upgrades. Otherwise, they'll be down the street at Best Buy.