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Sony May Expand Its 'Style' Stores To 10 Top Markets

4/05/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Sony revealed plans last week that could see the company expanding its smaller upscale Sony Style store chain into the top 10 U.S. markets.

A company spokesman said the new stores will be modeled on similar facilities presently operating in Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, Calif.

Unlike Sony's flagship Sony Style stores here and in San Francisco where showcasing, and not selling, products is paramount, the new locations will be more sales-oriented, the company spokesman said. This does not mean the stores will look or be operated like a conventional consumer electronics store, he added.

"The stores will not have rows of TVs nor even carry all of our products," the spokesman said.

The upcoming stores will have about 4,000 square feet of selling space and will be most likely located in upscale fashion malls where Sony expects them to attract a high percentage of female customers. The stores will gear their shopping experience toward these women by showing the Sony products in "lifestyle vignettes."

The customers will be helped by a concierge service that will assign "counselors and coaches" to customers who will show the customers how the various products interact.

Sony also discussed several upcoming changes to be made to its Vaio brand, which will include expanding its use outside IT and into CE categories.

Mark Hanson, Sony's VP for Vaio America, said the Vaio name will be placed on products that fall outside the desktop and notebook computer area where it has been traditionally used. These could include portable music players and other devices that do not use the Windows operating system, he said. Sony has only used the Vaio name on one non-computing product, the Vaio Music Clip.

Hanson said he also wants to see the Vaio developed as a business brand with products slated for the corporate marketplace.

To support this venture, Sony will expand its Web site to better serve the small and medium business customer and supplement the site with an augmented field and telephone sales force. In addition, Sony is eyeing the education market as another potential market for Vaio products.