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BJ's Taking Cellular National

4/30/2003 02:46:00 PM Eastern

Natick, Mass.- BJ's Wholesale Club will bring cellular, satellite TV, and landline broadband service to all of its 140 locations through an exclusive agreement with Wireless Retail, which will provide a turnkey store-within-a-store program.

With the launch, BJ's becomes the last of the three big wholesale clubs to offer cellular on a chain-wide basis, and it enables BJ's to enter the satellite-TV and broadband businesses, said Wireless Retail marketing VP Chris Cagle. 'Previously, BJ's utilized multiple third-party vendors at select clubs [for cellular], but there was no program covering all clubs,' he said.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Wireless Retail provides a similar turnkey program in all 525 Sam's Club stores. Wholesale club Costco also offers cellular on a chain-wide basis but not through Wireless Retail, Cagle said.

The BJ's program will be rolled out from April through June. Under the program, Wireless Retail will manage inventory and activation, provide in-store fixtures and staff, and install a Web-based POS system to capture sales information and report it in real time.

BJ's in-store ministores will feature an open layout to encourage consultative discourse between consumers and sales staff that will be hired, trained, and managed by Wireless Retail, Cagle said. Unlike traditional in-store kiosks with counters and enclosed display cabinets, the ministores will feature open access, and the product displays will encourage interaction with staff and ability to examine the products, he said.

In each BJ's store, Wireless Retail will offer cellular service from multiple carriers in contrast with BJ's previous program, which offered one carrier's service per store, Cagle said. In broadband, the outlets will initially offer Comcast cable-modem service and Earthlink's cable-, DSL- and dialup-modem services. Additional broadband providers will be added later, Cagle said. In satellite TV, BJ's will launch with Dish Network, but Cagle said a second service will be added later on.

Wireless Retail is also in negotiations with the two satellite-radio providers to offer satellite radio service through its turnkey-program partners.

With the BJ's rollout, Wireless Retail will operate a store-within-a-store in 1,106 retail outlets, including Sam's Club stores, Menard's, select Kmart stores, select Meijers stores, and indirectly via a carrier through select Wal-Mart stores. Wireless Retail also operates 60 mall-location kiosks and standalone stores under the Mobile Gateway name, and it provides cellular master distributor services for about 810 locations, mainly RadioShack franchise stores. The company also sells on-line and provides peak-time staffing to cellular retailers in about 650 locations.

Because of its scale, Wireless Retail is able to obtain cellular commissions and products at competitive rates, Cagle said. The company's 2002 revenues hit an estimated $300 million, according to TWICE's Top 100 list of the nation's leading electronics retailers.

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