Sony Value-Priced Bravia Not Only For Wal-Mart

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New York — Sony Electronics specially designed Bravia LCD line will not be exclusive to Wal-Mart, the company reported.

During the East Coast edition of its biannual roundtable with president Stan Glasgow and Randy Waynick, senior VP, home products division, Waynick said Sony will be selling a “value-priced” Bravia M Series by the end of July and the beginning of August to Wal-Mart that will “not be exclusive” to the chain and would also go to Target and other retailers. Sony confirmed the decision to sell Bravia-branded sets during a West Coast press briefing on Monday. Wal-Mart discussed an expanded Sony presence in its refurbished CE departments recently.

Waynick did not provide pricing for the three SKUs that are 26 inches, 32 inches and 40 inches. He described the selection as “the foundation of the lineup” in that it will not have all the design elements of the rest of the Bravia line, such as fewer HDMI slots, and will only go up to 720p vs. its emphasis on 1080p for the rest of the line.

“We have had relationships with Wal-Mart and Target in TV in the past, on a limited store basis,” Waynick noted. “These products are designed with their stores and their customers in mind. It is a good opportunity for both of us ... and is an important part of our business.”

The Bravia M Series was not on display during last week’s press conference on Sony’s video line and advertising plans.

Speaking of retail, the state of CE retailing came up in the wake of Tweeter filing for Chapter 11 protection, and lingering problems and changes with Circuit City, CompUSA and others, Glasgow noted, “Consumer behavior is shaping retailing today ... and making it tough for retailers. Around 80 to 90 percent of consumers do Web research before buying and that puts more pressure on retailers.”

He added, “The big guys survive on volume. The independent retailers survive on customization and tremendous service. But it is difficult when a regional player, like Tweeter for instance, tries to go national. Whether it is logistics, infrastructure, investment over the years, we’ve seen it’s difficult.”

About Tweeter specifically, Glasgow said that Sony monitored the situation and did not get hurt by the filing and noted, “Hopefully it can come out of this restructuring and become a strong, regional player.”

The manufacturer’s own Sony Style retail operation had “tremendous growth online and in stores” during its fiscal year that ended March 31. It has re-launched SonyStyle.com with quicker checkout and product comparison tools, Glasgow said. And at Sony Style stores — starting in San Diego and now in seven locations, several in the New York metropolitan area — there is “Backstage,” an area where customers can upgrade or repair their Vaio PCs, answer questions and possibly do other types of repair, installation and education services.

In advertising, Sony announced a $100 million program last week, Glasgow explained, “We changed our method of advertising. We used to advertise each category, but now we are grouping them together for three or four major campaigns a year. We call it our ‘silver bullet’ system. Saturate the market for an eight to 10-week period on the whole series of products.” He said the recent digital imaging effort was a success and drove business.

The other bundling program is in selling HDTV-related products, an attempt by Sony, in cooperation with its retailers, to come up with customized bundles of HD-related products for a set price. Glasgow explained, “HD is the playing card for all of this. Once a consumer buys an HDTV they want to know ‘What source?’ We see bundling making sense to give audio 5.1 system … create content with an HD camcorder” and other products like Vaio PCs or notebooks and PS3. The bundled products are customized by retailers in cooperation with Sony and are available now in some retail outlets, he said.

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