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Tweeter Unveils New Prototype

6/16/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Tweeter Opco formally unveiled its latest store iteration to the trade here last Wednesday.

The prototype is an existing 10,000-square-foot store, located near Tweeter's Canton, Mass., headquarters, that was remodeled this spring with a series of self-guided interactive displays.

The demos, which are activated by pressing various "Try Me" buttons throughout the store, allow customers to compare and assess products, visualize custom installations and experience the benefits of whole-home integration.

The display concepts were developed and installed by Tweeter's in-house engineering team, and were inspired in part by vendors' trade-show exhibits.

"We needed to improve the way we demonstrate our skill sets and showcase unique merchandise," president/CEO George Granoff told TWICE. "Some of the demos we saw at [International] CES were too technical for most retailers to implement, but I said to my engineers, 'Why can't we do that?'"

The company, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year with a new owner, investment group Schultze Asset Management, also needed a more cost-effective way to remodel its store base. Tweeter's previous prototype, the vignette-themed Playground concept, continues to outperform older stores but proved too costly a model to scale system-wide. The company still operates five Playground showrooms.

Granoff said the Dedham remodel took 90 days to complete and will be evaluated for another three months on 20 different performance metrics to determine "what works best, what provides the most lift" and which elements will be rolled out to other locations.

Highlights include "The Video Challenge," a concept borrowed from Pioneer in which customers can compare the color, contrast, resolution or response time of seven different flat-panel TVs simultaneously by pressing an array of "Try Me" buttons.

There's also a Disney-like automated demonstration of whole-home controls featuring a kitchen/living room/bedroom vignette that is also activated by pressing a "Try Me" button.

Other elements were carried over from the Playground stores, including a front-projection home theater room with D-Box motion simulation seating.

Besides the new displays, Tweeter also "completely overhauled" the store's sales and custom install operations and modified certain business processes, Granoff said. According to chief financial officer David Pearse, the automated displays will allow the store to shift the balance of sales and support personnel and manage more customers.

Vendors were enthusiastic about the new prototype, noting that it will help to further differentiate the A/V specialty chain from big-box competitors.

The concept store made its official public debut last Thursday.

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