By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
HDTV Warehouse, believed to be the first retail store devoted solely to high-definition flat-panel and microdisplay TVs, formally opened for business last month in this New Haven, Conn., suburb.
Founded by John Mlynski, former president of Gateway's Country Store retail division, the 3,800-square-foot concept store carries 50 SKUs of LCD, plasma, DLP, LCoS and rear-projection LCD TVs by such vendors as Epson, JVC, LG, Olevia, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Syntax and Vizio. The company also offers third-party custom installation services.
Mlynski described his assortment as wide and deep, ranging from a $369 retail 13-inch LCD to a 65-inch plasma display carrying a $15,000 price point. His merchandising approach is also exemplified by the nine SKUs of 42-inch plasma TVs alone, ranging from a $2,500 Vizio to a $5,000 Pioneer.
Mlynski said he will leverage his lean infrastructure and the purchasing power of his buying group, the MARTA Cooperative of America, to offer consumers a value proposition on name brand HDTVs, undercutting big-box chains by upwards of 10 percent on identical merchandise.
“Our objective is to give our customers the opportunity to choose not only by such characteristics as screen size, clarity and contrast, but also by their wallets,” Mlynski said. Personalized service and consumer education will also be emphasized.
“Humanizing the HDTV buying experience is part and parcel of our mission, along with dispelling the myth that you have to be a 'big-box' store to give value,” he said.
The store's central merchandising display is a flat-panel wall featuring over 30 models that are grouped by their “small,” “medium,” “large,” and “extra large” sizes. Demo content is live HD and analog TV feeds from the local cable operator, which allows customers “to see how their TV may actually play at home,” he said.
The TVs are complimented by a selection of three Onkyo HTiBs retailing from $249 to $1,100, a full range of Monster Cable accessories, and a selection of universal remotes and wall mounts. The company also carries extended warranties and a private-label credit card.
The store had had a soft opening in mid-December, and held a grand opening the weekend of Jan. 21-23.
Mlynski helmed Gateway Country from its beginnings in 1998 until 2000, when the chain boasted 191 units and $2.5 billion in annual sales, and also served as VP of Blockbuster Entertainment's Asia-Pacific division. He said he chose an HDTV concept for his latest endeavor due to the government-mandated conversion to digital over-the-air TV signals later this decade, the increase in HD programming, and strides in manufacturing and marketing that have made flat-panel displays more durable and affordable.
“When evaluating what type of retail concept I wanted to develop after leaving Gateway, I determined that if I were to jump back into retailing I wanted to get into something that was not a 'me too' business,” he said. “This is a great category with tremendous growth opportunities.”
Mlynski added that he hopes to eventually build his newest concept store into a regional or even a national business.
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