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"The game isn't over.."

12/04/2000 02:00:00 AM Eastern

"The game isn't over 'til it's over." That's the way Bartlett's Familiar Quotations phrases a line from a great observer of the human condition, and a hell of a ballplayer, Yogi Berra. (As his old manager, Casey Stengel, used to say, "You could look it up.")

I mention this bromide not to chide any politicians or politically minded readers about presidential vote counting, but to take a look at a couple of the stories that we are reporting on in this issue. The first is the opening of a new store for The Wiz-no longer known as "Nobody Beats The Wiz." I guess that's because they are trying to make a reasonable profit under the management of cable TV's Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, the Rangers, the Liberty, Radio City Music Hall and of the cable-rights to the Subway Series combatants, the Yankees and the Mets.

Who would have thought two years ago, or even a year ago, that the embattled regional chain would be opening new stores, planning to open more in different areas of the New York metropolitan area, and would be offering consumers a new store format in which to shop? Cablevision saw an opportunity and grabbed it, namely a well-known electronics chain that two years ago was down on its luck.

The Dolan family, which controls Cablevision, saw the future: "Convergence!" (Does anyone remember the "plastics" advice fromThe Graduate?) Anyway, Sony-built digital set-top boxes will be sold through The Wiz to Cablevision customers on a test basis by the end of the year. By the middle of next year, The Wiz will sell digital set-tops throughout the tri-state area. Check Wiz CEO Norman Goldberg's comments from the story starting on page 1. (You could look it up).

The much-maligned purchase of a well-known, but beaten-up, retail chain may eventually become, if not an act of genius, at least a shrewd business decision.

As for e-tailing in consumer electronics, all I can say is, remember 12 months ago? TWICE, along with plenty of other publications, quoted the gloom-and-doom crowd when it came to traditional retailers. With the way things turned out for many general e-tailing operations, if you were an owner or an executive with one of them, or were an investor in e-tailing stock during the past year, you have my condolences.

Some thought that e-tailing would become a fact of life in the CE industry, and it has come to pass, but not at the expense of brick & mortar business. Amazon.com, 800.com, etown.com, among others, have done well this year, but they are three of the exceptions.

Take a look at the story by senior editor Alan Wolf on page 6. If you notice, the brick & mortar crowd-the guys that should know how to meet customers' needs-have all opened e-tailing websites and are leveraging the advantages of having stores ready, willing and able to serve the public.

Of course the e-tailing phenomenon is in its infancy. Things will change dramatically, by the way. We know that. Those who thought brick & mortar stores would roll up and die in light of the e-tailing challenge overreacted. Of course when it comes to The Wiz, or e-tailing over brick & mortar retailing, it ain't over yet. Maybe it won't be over for a while. Stay tuned.

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