Tweeter CEO Talks Up New Format, Future

By Steve Smith On May 19 2008 - 6:00am




SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — George Granoff, CEO of Tweeter (left), attended his first PRO (Progressive Retailers Organization) Group spring meeting, talking to vendors about a new store format that will debut in the Boston metro area in June.

Granoff, the former president/COO of the Ames and Bradlee's discount chains, joined Tweeter last August soon after Schultze Asset Management acquired the company. He spoke with TWICE during the PRO event earlier this month and was upbeat about the embattled chain's prospects and the retrofitted Tweeter location in Dedham, Mass., which will officially debut in June.

Granoff said that the Dedham store will feature 20 A/V displays designed entirely by Tweeter employees. Some ideas are new while others come from what Granoff and Tweeter employees have been impressed by in the industry, such as concepts by Bose and Apple. He also hopes the new format will "showcase the expertise of our employees."

The key is that Granoff wants customers to "enjoy their in-store experience." He said that Tweeter's current demo rooms only work 65 percent of the time. "If our demo rooms are not operating 100 percent of the time, do you really think consumers will want to buy equipment from us and install it in their homes?"

What Granoff wanted Tweeter to develop is a "one-button approach that basically says, 'Try me.' The consumer should just press one button and get a full demonstration of equipment and configurations. We want this to be the best possible way to give our vendors' products the best possible demonstration for our customers."

In TV, the one-button approach will demonstrate five features consumers should look for in a TV with side-by-side comparisons of seven SKUs. Nineteen other product demos in a variety of categories are also planned.

"Sound rooms can sometimes be 'dark holes' that can be intimidating. With this approach we will have video challenge rooms that feature these 'try me' demos," Granoff said.

If this works, the goal would be to eventually roll out these "Try me" one-button demos to all of its 96 stores.

With all the challenges and changes, and questions on strategy from industry members as well as current and former employees, TWICE asked Granoff what has been some of the major hurtles he's faced since last summer. "We had to restate our infrastructure. We had to make cutbacks and by the beginning of the summer we will have taken out $10 million in costs," he said.

Granoff said the goal is to "change the business in a dramatic way, to let Tweeter be all it can be."

In the case of the new format, "Our people built this from scratch. We did not have consultants do this. I am passionate about our people and their abilities. We want to help them deliver the full potential of our business," said Granoff.

In terms of future marketing plans for Tweeter, he said, "We want to deliver a program that will attract existing and new customers ... using direct marketing" as part of the effort.

When asked about the commitments of Tweeter's vendors, who represent some of the top brands in the industry, Granoff said, "We can count on all of our vendors. They have been very supportive. When they go to our stores they see that we are in stock, the stores are clean and they tell us our salespeople have gotten their swagger back."

About its corporate owner, Schultze, Granoff noted that it is "committed to the long-term success of Tweeter. The business has been a struggle since the first of the year for us, but who hasn't had a struggle this year? We are putting all the necessary parts in place to be a success in the long term."

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