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BrandsMart Enters Atlanta Fray

Doraville, Ga. — After years of planning, BrandsMart USA, the Southeast Florida emporium for discounted electronics, major appliances, entertainment software and housewares, has opened its first mega-store outside the Sunshine State, setting the stage for what could become a bruising battle for market share in Atlanta.

The new 130,000-square-foot facility, a former General Motors assembly plant located here on a busy highway intersection just outside of Atlanta, is the first of three planned stores that will circle the city. All will be supported by a 200,000-square-foot regional warehouse that is expandable to 1 million square feet.

BrandsMart’s Atlanta launch follows by weeks the opening of the first of two area Fry’s Electronics superstores. Although the first Fry’s is situated well north and east of the new BrandsMart in Duluth, Ga., the chains share similar product assortment, merchandising and display practices. Indeed, their “stack ’em high, let ’em fly” approach was clearly evident in their grand-opening salvos, which included $11 microwave ovens, $100 washers, $280 desktops and 51-inch Toshiba CRT rear-projection integrated HDTVs for under $1,000.

Both retailers will have to play catch-up to H.H. Gregg, the midtier Midwest white- and brown-goods chain that has opened eight of 11 planned area stores over the last 18 months and a regional distribution center to supply them.

The companies are filling a regional CE and majaps void left by the demise four years ago of Roberds, the Ohio-based electronics, appliance and furniture chain, which also operated eight stores in Atlanta — some now occupied by H.H. Gregg. Apart from HiFi Buys, now run by the Tweeter Home Entertainment Group; The Home Depot, which is headquartered here; and Kmart, which may relocate here, Atlanta has no major indigenous white- and brown-goods chains, relying instead on national players like Best Buy, Sears and Circuit City for their CE and majaps needs.

Now that regional retailers are finally rushing in, could Atlanta be getting too much of a good thing? Bill Trawick, executive director of the NATM Buying Corp., which was once home to Roberds, H.H. Gregg and BrandsMart, says the jury’s still out. “This market is really heating up,” he observed during BrandsMart’s pre-opening party for the trade. “The question is, can it sustain all this growth?”

Michael Perlman, president/CEO of BrandsMart, believes it can. “There’s plenty of business here,” he said. “We have a different customer, a different demographic. We’re looking to stimulate the market, not hurt anyone.”