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Ultimate Electronics Entering White Goods

9/24/2007 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Ultimate Electronics is adding major appliances to its largely video-based assortment.

The A/V specialty chain began testing the category this month in Oklahoma with a massive 350-SKU selection of laundry and kitchen products that are filling upwards of 40 percent of its three lab store sales floors. Depending on the results, the company said, Ultimate may begin rolling out majaps to its other 29 locations by early next year, which would render it a major force in white-goods retailing.

Marketing senior VP David Smith told TWICE that Ultimate is moving into majaps to better utilize space in its average 35,000-square-foot superstores that was freed up after exiting or de-emphasizing categories like computers, DVD software and car audio. CEO Mark Wattles initiated the search for a new category 18 months ago that would complement the company's assisted selling model, and Ultimate embarked on white goods in earnest after attending the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) in May, Smith said.

The company launched the category in its Tulsa store on Sept. 1 and will add a similar selection of washers, dryers, refrigerators, cooktops, ovens, over-the-range microwave ovens and dishwashers to its two Oklahoma City stores on Sept. 22. Vendors include Bosch, Broan, Electrolux, GE, LG and Whirlpool, with a focus on the mass to premium-mass price segments, Smith said.

The stores added 6,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet of extra space to accommodate the new category, taken largely from warehouse and backroom areas, and the products are displayed both on the remodeled floor and within working demonstration kitchens designed by local designers. To man the departments, the company recruited experienced white goods sales staffers and enlisted current employees with majap backgrounds.

Ultimate is also offering in-house delivery and basic installation services, and a 60-day price-match guarantee to demonstrate its willingness to compete aggressively on price.

"As Sears' market share has shifted to the home improvement chains, we saw a void to in the marketplace that we can fill with our combination of expertise, service and price," Smith said.

Smith added that a chain-wide rollout of white goods could ultimately lead to a name change for the retailer.

Ultimate's majap brand assortment includes: Amana, Bosch, Broan, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Hotpoint, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag and Whirlpool.

In a statement, Wattles said "We hope Ultimate Electronics stores will become a one-stop shop for electronics and appliances in Oklahoma. You'll continue to get the same great service, largest selection and lowest prices that we're known for, creating an even better shopping experience for our customers."