CE Retailers Deck the Store19 Nov, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner
There's no place like home, especially for home entertainment.
With that in mind, consumer electronics retailers are starting a trend toward setting up comfortable (and convincing) living rooms in their showrooms to showcase the best — and often priciest — in home entertainment technology.
Best Buy and Ultimate Electronics are two chains getting comfortable with getting comfortable to lure in technophiles who want the latest in movies, games and sound.
At Best Buy Concept 5, it's all about Buzz.
But other concepts are about the Jill and the Barry. These aren't individuals, but composite personality types that Best Buy has identified as distinct customer segments.
Best Buy has tailored about 100 of its 780 stores to meet the needs of specific customers. Buzz is a single, childless male, 23 to 30 years old, who enjoys all the latest technical gadgets and is an avid gamer, said Kyle Leopard, sales segment manager at the new Orange, Calif., store. Buzz also represents a $17 billion-a-year market, he said.
Stores designed to appeal to Buzz have home theater environments that let the customer choose the TV screen and all of the components from a touchscreen, even switching among them to get the right combinations.
Here, and in game areas, customers test the products from comfy recliners. They can play against the game, other customers or employees to test the latest games. These stores also serve as regional platforms for product launches like the recent Halo 2 game launch.
“Typically, Buzz is the only one who shows up to a midnight launch,” Leopard said.
Ultimate Home Entertainment Design
Best Buy isn't the only chain trying to replicate the in-home experience for customers in stores. Denver-based Ultimate Electronics, a 65-store chain in the Midwest and West, co-brands with other companies to offer a variety of home theater environments.
In 34 stores, the chain has Ultimate Bose Experience Rooms where customers can test Bose home theater systems with plasma TVs. Think T-shirts and air guitars.
“It is one of the few places where you can get a real demonstration of a technology called ADAPTiQ. It's a technology from Bose that automatically measures the room environment and corrects for any sonic problems for the room and limitations in the speaker placement flexibility,” said Rick Bickford, VP of merchandising at Ultimate Electronics. “It's not just about the audio customer. Games have some of the most complex multichannel soundtracks that need subwoofers to reinforce the base and good surround sound processing to envelop the gamer in the experience.”
Also for the Buzz-like customer is the Hard Rock Room, which shows projection TV setups from Klipsch Technologies.
Monster Cable displays fully integrated entertainment furniture. But this isn't granny's old console TV. The concept, M-Design, is designed to make home entertainment components disappear into a room while making the entertainment the focal point.
“We don't look at merchandising just TVs. The TV is the focal point of a home entertainment system,” Bickford said. “This is a flagship home theater solution from both a performance and an aesthetic standpoint.”
The efforts seem to be working, Bickford said. “All of these have been very successful. The upgrade to the Hard Rock Rooms has had an extremely good result on our projector sales. The new Bose product launch is among the most successful things we have going,” he said.