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Target Goes High-Def

21 Oct, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Target Corp. is targeting the high-end electronics shopper.

Over the past two weeks, the retailer has started stocking high-definition software from both the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats and launched an extended-service plan program for consumer electronics products.

Calls to Target headquarters were not returned by press time, but calls to Target locations in Atlanta, Austin, Texas; Chicago; Detroit; Hollywood, Fla.; Jersey City, N.J.; Lawrence, Kan.; Minneapolis; Phoenix; Seattle; and Superior, Wis. verified that the chain has been selling high-definition discs since about the second week of October.

Visits to three Los Angeles area Target locations and two Orange County, Calif., stores found an evenly allocated shelf display of Blu-ray and HD DVD titles side-by-side, marked by a three-dimensional shelf-talker touting the increased picture and sound quality of the discs. The Blu-ray discs were priced at $29.99 for recent releases and $19.99 for older titles. All the HD DVDs were $19.99, with DVD/HD DVD combos marked at $29.99.

One side, colored blue, explained Blu-ray and told customers they must own a PlayStation 3 or a Blu-ray player for the discs to work.

Similarly, the red-background HD DVD half of the display first touted the Xbox 360 add-on drive as the playback device for HD DVD discs, and only then mentioned other players. Both sides of the merchandiser clearly pointed out that the discs will not play in standard DVD players.There were no high-definition disc players in the local Target stores, though the $999.99 Samsung Blu-ray player is available on the retailer's Web site, along with the $499 Toshiba HD DVD player.

Local Target clerks and those at cities HMR called across the country uniformly said the PS3 and Xbox add-ons likely will be the only high-def players in the stores for the holidays, saying they expect PS3s (priced between $500-$600) in stock by Nov. 17.

“Those Blu-ray players are expensive,” one clerk at a Detroit location said. “PS3 is all you need.”

Meanwhile, Target Corp. Oct. 16 announced a bid to compete with full-service electronics retailers such as Best Buy's Magnolia Home Theater department and Circuit City's new Firedog offering.

Starting this month, electronics shoppers can buy three-year extended-service plans on consumer electronics products, with the exception of cell phones, in a range of prices — $19 for products under $200, $29 for products $200-$500, $59 for products $500-$1,000 and $79 for products $1,000 or more.

It's a response to consumer demand, said Steve Eastman, Target VP and general merchandise manager.

Target shoppers can buy the extended-service plans at the point of purchase or within 90 days. And, instead of requiring buyers to keep receipts and warranty information, Target has designed a sticker to go on every covered machine with the service department phone number.“Target is simplifying the extended service plan for our guests, keeping in line with our goal of conveniently providing guests with products and services that make their lives easier,” Eastman said.

Home theater systems require increasingly sophisticated installations, and Target isn't the only retailer trying to maintain close contact with buyers of those kinds of goods. Wal-Mart also is reportedly looking into an arm that will help its home theater shoppers install their new products. Wholesaler Costco recently launched a home-installation program, as well.

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