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RadioShack Franchisee Adds GE Majaps

LITTLE FALLS, MINN. — At first glance, visitors to the franchised RadioShack here might think they’ve entered the wrong store.

For lined up beyond the pegboards and end caps of CE accessories stand rows of shiny new GE washers, dryers, ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators.

But the majaps are no mirage. Father and son coowners Jim and Steve Andres, whose Design Electronics chain operates seven RadioShack stores and an authorized Verizon Wireless shop in Minnesota and South Dakota, are the first authorized RadioShack franchisees to carry GE appliances.

The newly minted majap department holds 70 floor models across key product categories and price points — from an entry-level Hotpoint laundry pair to premium GE Café Collection kitchen fare — and fills about a quarter of their 4,000-squarefoot flagship showroom here.

The majap offering is supported by two kitchen displays, for the Café line and the company’s new slate finish, and purchases are backed by the Andres’ own authorized repair service. The store also has 3,000 square feet of office and inventory space, which is supplemented by GE’s quick-response logistics.

Most consumers are unaware, at least initially, of the distinction between RadioShack’s more than 1,000 franchised locations and its 4,700 company- operated stores. But franchisees are given wide latitude with assortment and store design, and for many locations any similarity with their corporate counterparts begins and ends with the RadioShack logo.

The Andres, who were recently named RadioShack Franchisee of the Year (see story, left), adhere to the corporate matrix more than most, Steve said, although they also sell and repair TVs through a direct relationship with LG Electronics, are an authorized Dish and Verizon Wireless dealer, and provide custom installation, security and IT support services.

Theirs is not the first RadioShack franchise to sell appliances, he noted, although GE confirmed that the Little Falls store is the first to carry theirs. [RadioShack was preparing a statement on franchisee appliances at press time.]

The appliance area replaces home-theater and car audio sections, which had been shrinking in size and margin over the last few years, Steve said. He and his father had been casting about for a more efficient use of their floor space, and were exposed to the benefits of white goods through their membership in the Nationwide Marketing Group, the $14 billion appliance, CE and furniture organization for independent dealers.

The Andres opted for an exclusive, single-vendor program due to their limited footprint and local community needs, and narrowed their choice to GE and Frigidaire. They met with both manufacturers at Nationwide’s recent PrimeTime! convention in February, and pulled the trigger with GE in March.

Within three weeks the Little Falls RadioShack became a GE Showcase Dealer, a special designation that comes with promotional and advertising backing, display and consumer financing, and other vendor support.

The final stages came in quick succession, with the floor-setting on April 10, the first delivery on April 12 and training on April 15. Now it’s just a matter of time before the Andres learn whether their white-goods gamble paid off, and if RadioShack corporate takes notice.