By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Best Buy said it is implementing several changes in its 12-volt merchandising to reflect the broader changes in the car audio market.
The company launched a storewide push into HD Radio last month, offering a new Visteon Zoom car receiver in all stores.
In addition, merchandising VP Chris Homeister said the leading U.S. outlet for car audio is examining the name-branded OEM integration device market, and may enter the category at the end of year.
Homeister noted, "We've seen some very promising products developed that have begun to address taking advantage of OEM products in the car to make them more individualized to the customers." He added, "Some of the things we've seen in product development, I think they are going to … take advantage of OEM displays and look at it from a car portal standpoint, where the brains of the products are not in an installed receiver but in the trunk of your car."
In HD Radio, the company is demonstrating the sound quality of the new service and decided not to rush the product into the stores until the demos were in place. "Through our customer centricity program, we learned it was an important element to listen to the sound quality difference, and to see it displayed on the receiver's LCD. Unlike other early product launch cycles in mobile electronics where we may have rushed to place the hardware in the store, and then the demo may have come later, with HD Radio it was very important to have the merchandising elements in place from the get go," said Homeister.
To address installation challenges and the growing complexity of new cars, Best Buy said it began bringing its installers out onto the sales floor six months ago. The installers now talk to the customers in the mobile section "to make sure our customers are comfortable with things that will be modified in their car," and also to help explain new technologies such as Bluetooth.
Best Buy said it averages approximately four installers per store and has a total staff of 3,000.
In addition, the company said it is planning some changes in its GPS merchandising in the next few months and has already placed GPS in other departments around the store including the PC section. In personal navigation devices, Best Buy carries Garmin, TomTom, Sony, Magellan and Alpine.
In satellite radio, Best Buy says it continues to be a "big advocate" of the technology but added, "There's no question some of the sales have been impacted by the uncertainty caused by the XM/Sirius merger plans," said Homeister.
And although overall industry sales have been declining in car audio, the merchandising VP said of the car market, "We have not reduced our commitment to the category. We remain as committed as ever to car stereo."
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