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Sharp Inks Exclusive Notebook Deal With Circuit City

New York – Sharp Electronics has signed an exclusive deal with Circuit City that makes the retailer the only nationwide chain to carry the company’s new notebook computers.

Starting this week three new Sharp Actius notebooks will be displayed on a special end cap display in about 400 Circuit City stores, said Greg Nakagawa, Sharp’s senior vice president and general manager at Sharp Systems of America. The Actius UM32, MV12 and GP22, are all upgrades of current models, and are part of Sharp’s overall effort to increase its presence in the U.S. notebook market.

‘We are very enthusiastic about this deal because Circuit City will be able to show how our notebooks differ from others on the market,’ Nakagawa said.

Steve Baker, IT research director for NPDTechworld, Port Washington, N.Y, said Sharp made an excellent choice in going with Circuit City as that chain has a proven track record in selling large numbers of notebook computers.

Circuit’s primary merchandising effort will focus on the end cap, which will allow customers to pick up and handle the products. This is unusual since most retailers have notebooks securely fastened under plastic cases to avoid theft. Nakagawa said Circuit has worked out the security issue with the end cap and the floor models should be safe.

For its part Sharp is not solely tied to Circuit City and will continue selling product through regional retailers. Fry’s Electronics, J&R Computer World and Micro Center now carry the brand. Several other regional chains are expected to sign on in the next few months, Nakagawa said, but he could not give any further details.

Nakagawa would not say how much of a sales boost being carried by Circuit City will give to Sharp other than to say it should be ‘quite significant.’ Any increase should be welcome by Sharp. Since the company re-entered the U.S. notebook market 18 months ago, but according to NPDTechworld data the brand has not made even a blip on U.S. sales charts.

While Sharp’s national profile will increase, the company does not intend to take on the top-tier notebook players head on, particularly in the entry-level segment. Nakagawa said Sharp simply does not have the ability to support a program on that level, which is another reason why the Circuit City deal is so important. Circuit City can give Actius a great deal of exposure both in the stores and the advertising circular, he said.

Through these vehicles and special features added to the notebooks Sharp hopes to differentiate the Actius models enough to carve out a small niche.

Actius UM32, MV12 and GP22 will carry respective suggested retail prices of $1,999, $1,999 and $1,899. The first two models are ultra-portable, weighing in at about 3 pounds and the latter is a desktop replacement.

The UM32W features an Intel Pentium III 1GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, two USB 2.0 ports and a 15-inch display.

The Actius MV12 has a slightly faster 1.13GHz Pentium III processor, 802.11b wireless networking support, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and a 12.1-inc LCD.

The GP22 is a takes the unusual step of using the desktop computer version of the Pentium 4 2.2GHz processor, not the mobile type that is normally placed in notebooks. The company believes this makes perfect sense since the model is being positioned as a desktop replacement. Other features include 512MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, SD and SmartMedia card slots CD-RW/DVD drive and four USB 2.0 ports.

The fact that Sharp manufactures its own product will enable it to add new features faster then firms that outsource production. Sharp will test this theory next year when it plans to adding several features to the line next year that should attract quite a bit of consumer attention, Nakagawa said