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Sony Revamps Store Format With ‘Style’-less Prototype

Los Angeles – Sony
Electronics took the wraps off a next-generation format for its direct-channel
retail stores here that emphasizes connectivity and live displays.

As part of the redesign,
the chain and e-commerce site, currently branded as Sony Style, will simply be
dubbed Sony.

The new showroom, located
at the Westfield Century City shopping mall, borrows a page from Apple Stores
with its bright, open sales floor and live, table-height displays designed to
encourage consumer trials.

The format also features
a new Premium Services support program, reminiscent of Apple’s famed Genius
Bar, which will provide customers with assistance and education by trained
staff and certified technicians. Services include product setup, repair facilitation
and IT support, as well as home delivery and A/V installation. Some services
will be complimentary, and others will carry a fee.

The new retail concept
comes 16 months after Sony hired away Apple’s longtime senior regional store
director Linda Turner as senior VP of Sony Style retail stores, and gave her
responsibility for the chain’s strategic and operational direction, including
all aspects of the customer experience.

“Sony’s goal is always to
exceed customer expectations by providing an exciting, interactive and
entertaining shopping experience,” said Sony Electronics president/COO Phil
Molyneux. “Our new store concept gives shoppers an opportunity to interact with
trained and knowledgeable staff as well as preview, test, compare and unlock the
full potential of Sony’s entertainment offerings.”

To that end, the
prototype will provide live demos of Sony products and content including video
games, cameras, headphones, 3D movies, and networked services like Music
Unlimited and Video on Demand powered by Qriocity. It will also showcase future
and emerging technologies and innovations, such as Sony’s RayModeler, a
360-degree display prototype that projects a 3D image which can be seen from
all angles.

The 4,200-square-foot
showroom, designed in collaboration with Klein Dytham architecture (KDa), also
features movable interior walls and changeable color schemes, affording it a
flexible layout that can be reconfigured to highlight specific products,
services, or content, and provide a “fresh experience” for returning customers,
the company said.

Zeena Freeman, who heads
up Sony Corp.’s global retail office and serves as consumer business
development senior VP for Sony Corporation of America, described the new
showroom as “a significant step in building a blueprint for future Sony stores,
both in the U.S. and around the world.

“In this store, Sony is
eager to test innovative offerings and listen and learn from customer feedback.
We will gather opinions so that we can continually evolve and improve our
retail experience, both here in the U.S. and around the world,” she said.

Sony did not announce a
timetable for new store expansion.

Freeman noted that the
decision to drop “Style” from the direct-sell brand reflects company’s “increasing
focus on providing an integrated shopping experience that features all that
Sony has to offer, from hardware to content to services.” The company said the shortened
moniker will also allow customers to more readily recognize the Sony-direct
channel, and hopes to have all Sony Style stores rebranded by year’s end.

It is not clear if
elements of the new store design and branding will also be integrated into the
in-store Sony shops found at select dealers.

The launch of the debut
Sony Store will be celebrated with a three-day-long giveaway contest and a live
in-store performance by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Natasha Bedingfield on
April 2.