By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
People who want home improvements go to Lowe's, those looking to improve their car's performance might visit Pep Boys, and with the introduction of pcToys at CompUSA, the computer loyalists now have a place to go to soup up their PC.
CompUSA is now in the process of retrofitting its stores to hold between 85 and 120 SKUs from pcToys, a subsidiary of CoolerGuys.com. Its merchandise targets consumers who bought moderately priced PCs, but now want to improve their performance and appearance. The product offerings are split with one segment aimed at people looking to improve a computer's performance and the other at those who hate a PC's beige or charcoal gray chassis and want to make a style statement.
"With the PC industry basically bought out right now we see the mass personalization of the PC as the next big area," said Glen Northrop, CoolerGuys.com president.
CompUSA said pcToys will fill a gap in its merchandise mix.
Although pcToys was created last April, the company behind it, CoolerGuys.com, has been performing this task for the past three years. CoolerGuys.com started out as a small home-based operation that served the very high-end gamer market as an online retailer, said Northrop. He defined this customer group as, "guys with PC systems costing in excess of $15,000 who routinely play networked games with fellow enthusiasts."
"There is a complete cyber counterculture built around the extreme PC gamer. These guys spend a huge proportion of their money on PC stuff," Northrop said.
The company is not, and has no desire to become, involved in the high-tech aspect of this market and does not market graphics cards, processors or other components. Instead it focuses on other products that improve PC performance such as high-powered fans and power supplies. Also, because these players are so into their PCs, appearance plays a paramount role, so CoolerGuys.com, and now pcToys, created a full line of chassis and even internal lighting to make the computers look cool. The company does not stop there, included in the initial roll-out are brightly colored cables and nuts and bolts.
"It is very similar to street racers and what they do to their Honda Acura cars," Northrop said.
The expansion of CoolerGuys.com into the retail market under the pcToys brand can be traced to a local CompUSA store manager in Tennessee who saw the popularity of these products and started selling a few in his store's service area. The idea was presented to CompUSA's upper management and the computer superstore chain has decided to bring the product line onboard in all its locations. The chain has been running an expanded test in several retail outlets for the last three months.
Northrop said CompUSA saw a huge profit potential for its service area in selling pcToys products. Since the average customer is not likely to be a techie, like the CoolerGuys.com, he or she will need someone else to do the work.
"CompUSA sees a way to 'out Dell' Dell by allowing the customer to pick the components and have the store put everything together," he said, adding the pcToys products will be merchandised near the service areas to help customers make the connection.
Northrop said his company is also working with Micro Center and Tiger Direct to sell pcToys merchandise.
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