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Sony’s Style Stays Blu

7 Oct, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

I’ll say this for Sony: It puts its format where its mouth is.

Responding to a last-minute invite to attend the grand opening of a Sony Style store inside The Americana at Brand shopping center in Glendale, Calif., I wasn’t interested in the Sony pitch for the evening; they were all pumped up about something called the Sony Reader Digital Book. I had the same reaction I had when I heard about Amazon’s Kindle: yawn.

Instead, I wanted to see how Sony was treating high-def in its own line of boutique stores, four of which are now in the Los Angeles area.

I can best compare Sony Style stores to Apple’s line of shops, albeit better looking and more fun to shop in. Anything and everything Sony is here, from headphones to cameras to giant HDTVs. A corner is dedicated solely to PlayStation, and advertisements for upcoming Sony films are prevalent. The store begs customers to sit and stay awhile, with couches, benches and a “go ahead, manhandle the merchandise” attitude. There are enough employees on hand to answer everyone’s questions, and they actually know what they’re talking about (I’m glaring at you, Wal-Mart employees). These stores even have concierge desks. All they need are popcorn machines.

Most importantly, at every corner of the store, Blu-ray Disc is showcased. Not a single DVD player is hooked up to the 20 or so HDTVs for sale; most have a Sony Blu-ray player on display. Sure, you can buy a Sony upscaling DVD player if that’s what you’re here for … it’s collecting dust in a dark corner toward the back of the store. Blu-ray signage, Blu-ray reading material, especially Blu-ray Discs, all draw attention to the format. I counted a half-dozen spots where Blu-ray Discs were for sale, and while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment product got first billing, Blu-rays from other studios could also be found. And just try to find the few DVDs for sale in this store.

Dennis Syracuse, Sony’s SVP of retail, told me Sony Style stores are a gateway for first-time Blu-ray owners, with Sony offering discounts for those who walk away with new players and new HDTVs. He added that his company isn’t catering to those looking for marked-down, out-of-date merchandise, and proudly.

“We don’t sit next to Radio Shack. We sit next to Tiffany’s. We sit next to Gucci,” he said. “Ultimately what draws people here is the selection … you want to see what Blu-ray is all about, we’ll tell you. We incorporate Blu-ray into all of our displays.”

It’s not surprising Sony would push its own format in its own stores, but it did leave me wondering: How much better might Blu-ray product do this holiday season if other electronics retailers were to take the same tact?

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