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Sixth Avenue Revamps Web Site, Will Add Two New Stores

4/30/2007 07:54:00 AM Eastern

Springfield, N.J. — New Jersey-based specialty A/V retailer Sixth Avenue Electronics is expanding its footprint once again, adding two new locations in the third quarter and rolling out a revamped Web site.

The two new stores, one in the Jersey shore town of Brick and one in Commack, N.Y. — the chain’s second Long Island location — brings Sixth Avenue’s store count to an even dozen. The announcement comes on the heels of a just-completed renovation effort of the chain’s existing locations, according to Tom Galanis, operations VP.

The new stores will mirror the approximate size and design of the company’s signature Paramus, N.J. flagship, utilizing lifestyle vignettes and dedicated home theater and A/V demo rooms.

The chain has focused heavily on the custom installation market in recent years, both in-home and in-vehicle — Galanis estimated that the chain’s in-home installation business has grown 40 percent in the last year — and is now setting its sites on the burgeoning home networking category, particularly with products utilizing Control4 technology, an IP-based home control and entertainment system.

“There is finally a large selection of affordable home networking products available to consumers and we see a great opportunity for our well-educated sales staff,” Galanis said. “Almost every consumer electronics product we sell has, or will have in the future, a network-based functionality.” To that end, each Sixth Avenue store has been wired to optimally demonstrate the benefits of networking to consumers.

To complement that focus, the chain has sharpened its merchandising toward more forward-looking technologies. CRT displays, for instance, have been completely removed from the TV mix, with large-screen LCDs dominating the stores’ massive flat-panel display walls. “And we’re moving a lot of HD DVD players and high-end cables as attachment sales to the flat panels,” said Mike Temiz, Sixth Avenue’s president. “Once our people demonstrate HD video on a 1080p flat panel, it sells itself.”

In addition to the physical changes, Sixth Avenue recently launched a new version of its e-commerce Web site, a project two years in the making, said Rudy Temiz, marketing VP. The new site incorporates a “human factors engineering” element in which original content about the products being sold is written “using the voice of the target audience. So, for instance, the content describing camcorder models is skewed toward the ‘soccer mom’ who is the primary purchaser of that product. But the car audio descriptions are written more toward a younger male demographic,” Temiz said. Besides bringing in an outside firm to assist in the transition, the chain has hired a number of in-house content creators.

Product descriptions are far more comprehensive than before, and visitors to the site can drill down to extensive and exacting spec listings. All available accessories for the specific product are listed under a clickable tab on that product’s page. The chain is in the process of adding downloadable PDF files of the product manuals of every single product it sells.

The new site also incorporates for the first time customer reviews and ratings of products, and there are also plans to add forums for user-generated content. “We are not content to just be an online store,” Rudy Temiz explained. “We want our site to be the most informative product resource on the Web.”

“It’s now a very sticky site,” Galanis added.

The efforts are already paying off, according to Temiz. Attachment sales are measurably better, he said, “and conversion rates — visitors to the site that actually make a purchase — have skyrocketed.” The feedback from vendors has been very positive also, according to Galanis. “We have gotten tremendous support from our vendors and we have been rewarded by having access to the full distribution lines from those vendors.”

But in the end, said Galanis, the chain’s ultimate goal is still growing the retail channel. Sales topped $200 million last year and comp-store sales are up around 20 percent, he said. “Add in two new locations and the new Internet site and we are very happy with our position going forward.”

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