Home Theater Store Defies Dallas' Doldrums

Alan Wolf On Jan 6 2005 - 8:00am




When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That would certainly describe Texan Mihir Mody, CEO of specialty A/V chain Home Theater Store, which operates seven high-end CE boutiques in Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

Despite softness in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, where Mody maintains stores in North Dallas and Arlington, he was determined to add two more area stores, in downtown Dallas and the northern suburb of Frisco, while opening a third in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

All three are set to open this month.

“I've always been proud of our creative 'beyond the box' vision at the Home Theater Store,” said Mody, who is also outgoing president of his buying group, Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA). (See story this page.) And rather than be deterred by Dallas-Ft. Worth's downturn, “The difficult 2004 market conditions in the DFW area have inspired us to look hard at every aspect of our product, service, and delivery model,” he explained. “Our mission is to innovate and elevate. This expansion allows us to better serve our growing market in these areas, and gives us the opportunity to further enhance our unique shopping experience — which looks beyond selling products by providing a 'solutions concept.'”

Indeed, encouraged by the success of, and consumer demand for, Home Theater Store's solutions selling approach of bundling complete A/V systems, Mody has expanded and refined the concept over the past year. One such innovation was GEL, a separate lifestyle design, engineering, and installation business that operates within select Home Theater Store locations.

“GEL is a specialized consultancy for clients wanting to integrate technologies such as lighting, automation, and A/V products into their homes or offices — and into their lives,” Mody said.

Also launched last year was Home Theater Store's VIBE Card, a customer retention concept based on value-added benefits available only to VIBE Cardholders.

These value and convenience benefits include free loaner components while a member's equipment is serviced, and priority status on delivery and installation. Cardholders also receive advance notice of sales and promotions, invitation to preview special events, and the benefits of Home Theater Store's value-added partnerships with allied businesses and vendors.

“It may revolutionize our business in the industry,” Mody said of the VIBE Card. “When you are a member, you are part of a special, exclusive community — a community that shares a passion for entertainment, technology and the good life.”

Another new addition is the company's Web site, www.hometheaterstore.com, which, in addition to an e-commerce function, provides an “Idea Gallery” of four bundled home theater systems and patented solutions shown within realistic home environments.

As Mody noted, he is always on the lookout for ways to streamline his business and operations, especially during the company's current expansion. “It's common for retailers to grow themselves right out of business,” he said, “and we're actively working to prevent that through internal innovation and improvement.”

One recent example is a Home Theater Store Clearance Center, which opened last year near corporate headquarters. The Clearance Center helped reduce discontinued and open stock inventory, Mody explained, leaving the showrooms free to display current models.

“New customers that experience the Home Theater Store difference for the first time at the Clearance Center can't wait to see what's in stores at the main showrooms. It's fantastic.”

Another recent change was the spinning off of the company's state-of-the-art service department to operate as a separate company that services all of the products sold by Home Theater Store, as well as merchandise sold by other retailers. “Expansion of a service center helps retain the clients for life,” Mody said.

The company also began regular video conferencing between its multi-city locations, and converted its phone service to Internet-based voice over IP (VoIP). Besides reducing travel time and associated costs, teleconferencing provided “instant and huge” benefits in communications and knowledge-sharing, Mody said, while VoIP provides quick and efficient telephony to the statewide locations at substantially lower cost.

Despite the innovations that Mody and his staff have realized over the previous year, he is reluctant to rest on his laurels. “I am proud of the Home Theater Store team and our accomplishments last year. It was an amazing year, but we can't dwell on it. We are an organization in motion — forward motion. Resting on our laurels would only be an invitation to disaster. Our mission is to innovate and elevate, and we can only achieve this by always asking ourselves, 'How will I top myself today?' In an industry that challenges and innovates almost daily, how could we do anything less?”

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