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It’s Time For an Upgrade

Hot on the heels of the opening of the 8th Microsoft store comes news that Sony has opened a new concept Sony Style location in the Century City mall in Los Angeles. While, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit yet, Sony offers this nice walkthrough on its blog site.

Certainly, the store looks revamped, with more focused product areas and a more inviting in-store merchandising look. Both are significant improvements over the existing chain, which despite being a manufacturer store, has always felt more like a store with a standard retail focus than a manufacturer store with the excitement and focus that it implies.

As we have learned from Apple, and now Microsoft, a store owned and operated by a manufacturer needs to be more innovative than your everyday retail environment; a concept that is not only possible, but essential for a manufacturer or brand with knowledge and expertise on its own offerings. This, combined with the added margin dollars from direct sales, (dollars that can help support the higher service levels and brighter in-store marketing) makes it a no-brainer. For a brand, its own retail environment has to be equal parts showcase, evangelical hall, and retail selling floor, where for the retailer, the selling floor is – and must – come first.

All of this is why the industry view of the Sony Style chain has always been so uncertain. For a brand with the retail flare and retail selling imperative as part of its DNA that is better than most, the fact that the Style stores were always more of a showcase with just a touch of sales mentality (except for the VAIO section) and almost none of the passion of the brand, has always been puzzling. Here’s hoping that this iteration will help Sony recapture the passion of the brand in an atmosphere that promotes that passion while also closing the deal.

Stephen Baker, Vice President, Industry Analysis, The NPD Group