San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
Richmond, Va. — Not to be outdone by Best Buy, Circuit City has rolled out a rewards program of its own and is also testing an in-home PC service solution. Unlike Best Buy's $9.99/year Reward Zone loyalty program, Circuit's is linked to private-label plastic, in this case a Circuit City Rewards Visa Card. Members earn 5 percent on most company purchases, which can be redeemed for merchandise. The chain's version of Geek Squad, dubbed the IQ Crew, is being tested in Florida and Atlanta, although most of its 600-plus stores have already added Crew counters for in-store support. Best Buy rolled Geek Squad out nationwide last month.
Redwood City, Calif. — In its quest for realism — and ancillary income —video-game publisher EA Games has incorporated some very real-world storefronts and billboards into the fictional landscape of its new “Need For Speed Underground 2” racing title. Among those paying rent in cyberspace is Best Buy, which is represented by a store among the skyscrapers, and Cingular Wireless, Old Spice and Burger King, whose logos appear on “outdoor” ads. Video games have become an increasingly popular medium for guerilla marketers, who will soon be able to update their product placements post-sale via the Internet.
Las Vegas — Sony has opened its tenth Sony Style store, this one within the newly expanded Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, here. Like others within the chain, the 6,000-square-foot shop features the full line of Sony A/V, digital imaging, PC and software products, plus a concierge desk, demonstration areas, Wi-Fi Internet access, and custom in-home delivery service. The Caesars store is also the second, after New York, to contain a Qualia premium line showroom. Dealers have expressed concern over Sony's direct-sell plans, although Sony regards the “fashion stores” as a platform for demonstrating and testing new products and marketing plans.
Delray Beach, Fla. — Office Depot has embarked on its long-planned entry into the Northeast, which executive VP Rick Lepley describes as “the country's least saturated market for office supply superstores.” To prepare for the 40-store market entry, Office Depot acquired Kids “R” Us real estate from Toys “R” Us and developed a new Millennium 2 (M2) retail format that is less expensive to open, more efficient to operate and easier to shop (see TWICE, July 12, p. 5). “The format is intuitive, logical and designed for the way people make purchase decisions,” Lepley explained. Office Depot expects to open 180 new stores nationwide through 2006 while remodeling a “good portion” of its older retail base, he said.