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TigerDirect Opens New Concept CompUSA

11/03/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

TigerDirect, the IT and A/V multichannel chain, has opened a new concept store within the Miami market that brings the online shopping experience to a brick-and-mortar format.

The store, one of the 16 CompUSA locations acquired by parent Systemax, was retrofit with 300 Internet-connected computers that are discreetly coupled to the products on display.

A tap of the keyboard brings shoppers to an "item details page" — essentially a home page for each product — that describes features, provides configurations and offers demonstration videos for the store's laptops, desktops, printers, flat-panel TVs and other items.

The computers deliver HD content to the TVs via HDMI output, and content can be tailored to each individual SKU by vendor or model.

Computer stations are also located on gondola endcaps to provide information on products displayed within the aisle, while the system's next iteration will also allow shoppers to make their purchases directly from the PCs.

The PCs display product messaging while in idle mode, and provide online access to competitors' e-commerce sites to allow customers to comparison shop.

"We can't hide from the world," TigerDirect CEO Gilbert Fiorentino told TWICE. "Customers may as well use our in-store PCs, rather than their home computers or BlackBerrys."

Fiorentino said the new store concept, dubbed Retail 2.0, leverages the company's online expertise to "bridge the chasm" between Web-based and physical stores. He described the prototype as the "future of retailing," and said it represents the first implementation of customer-facing technology at the store level.

"The world has changed," he said, "but retailers haven't."

The remodeled Miami store had a soft opening on Oct. 22. Fiorentino said the system, which was developed entirely in-house, is currently being tested and assessed for its impact on conversion rates and traffic, and should be ready for rollout by mid- to late November. The plan calls for three to five of the company's 30 retail stores to be remodeled each month.

Retail 2.0 should eventually allow TigerDirect to reduce its in-store sales staff and increase revenue by helping customers be more self-sufficient, he noted, while making remaining sales personnel "experts" on all inventory.

Reaction to the new concept was positive. "Retail 2.0 may be the savior to the CompUSA brand and help attract more brick-and-mortar shoppers," said Dave Graveline, host of the national TV and radio CE show "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline." "It is a good way to converge the Web with an actual store and attract tomorrow's digital crowd."

TigerDirect is a 20-year-old subsidiary of Systemax, which makes and sells computer hardware under the Systemax and Ultra brands. TigerDirect began as a catalog brand, expanded to the Internet and operated 11 retail stores in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ontario, Canada.

It more than doubled its store count this year following Systemax's acquisition in January of 16 CompUSA locations in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, along with CompUSA's brand, trademarks and e-commerce business.

Fiorentino said the company will "aggressively" add more retail locations next year, and will eventually convert all TigerDirect stores to the CompUSA brand, making TigerDirect the first e-tailer to become a successful retailer.

Storefronts are necessary, he noted, because the Internet's share of total CE sales remains small, and because consumers still like to kick the tires.

"Part of the fun of buying a TV is going to the store and looking at it," he said. "Consumers still want to see the product and feel it."

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