By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The most visible aspect of The Wiz's turnaround efforts is a new store format that's designed to demystify digital technology while better showcasing the products and services of parent company Cablevision.
The new design, dubbed Digital Solutions, debuted here earlier this month and will spread to 32 more units by October. The balance of The Wiz's 42 locations will be retrofitted next year.
Cablevision retail division president Jeffrey Yapp described the new design as "concept-driven" rather than a complete overhaul, thereby sparing the company a wholesale gutting of the existing format which began rolling out in December 2000.
In developing the concept, the company began by assessing what's wrong with the typical CE big box shopping experience. "The stores are intimidating, cold and confusing," Yapp said. "There's lots of noise and lots of 'stuff.' It's kind of overwhelming."
To address those issues, the Digital Solutions retrofits feature a number of shopper amenities, including:
Lifestyle vignettes. Living room-look home theater demo areas, tiered in blue (good), platinum (better) and gold (best) product arrays.
Radio City Home Theatre. A state-of-the-art home theater demo room with theater seating, drop-down TV screen and Bose sound system, situated under a mini Radio City marquis that alludes to another Cablevision property.
Also plaguing CE retail, Yapp noted, is the "big gap between the promise of technology and the harsh reality." A good example, he said, is the digital camera. "It's a superb promise and sounds good in theory, but then you get it home and the software doesn't load or there are other problems."
The new format tries to fill the techno-gap by providing integrated solutions and a steady hand for shoppers to hold as they traverse the digital landscape. In-store tools include:
Digital Solutions Center. Display area where consumers are can test drive such products as digital cameras and camcorders, MP3 players, cell phones and PDAs. Sales associates are available for demonstrations and explanations, and the area serves as the focal point of the store.
Audio solutions room/Rainbow Room. Audio components are displayed within the "solutions room" by the same blue, platinum and gold pricing system. Adjacent is the "Rainbow Room," a designated consultation area for sales associates and customers.
Connect U. A customer training room where shoppers can take free classes in digital photography, PCs and digital music.
Yapp's other prerogative in reshaping The Wiz is to better infuse the stores with Cablevision offerings. To that end, every computer station on display is connected to Optimum Online, the company's Internet cable service, and every TV is hooked up to iO, Cablevision's Interactive cable service.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.