By Alan Wolf & Steve Smith
800.com has become the first e-tail-only retailer authorized by Sony to sell its audio, video and telecommunications products, according to the retailer and the manufacturer.
The e-tailer will begin offering Sony products this spring through a "uniquely designed Sony Store" contained within the 800.com web site, as well as throughout the site's product offerings.
Greg Drew, president/CEO, and Frank Sadowski, senior VP of 800.com, said the final model selection and the number of SKUs to be carried has not been set as yet. "We will carry a full line of Sony products in those core categories," Sadowski added.
800.com's Sony selection will include digital and analog TV, DVD, video, camcorders, digital cameras and telecommunications products, as well as portable, home and car audio.
Drew said, "We are pleased to be the first pure play Internet retailer to be selected by Sony." 800.com is manufacturer-authorized for its entire consumer electronics offerings. The site currently carries 250,000 CE products, games, movie and music titles from more than 60 top CE and entertainment software suppliers.
While 800.com is the first Internet-only e-tailer sanctioned to carry Sony products, eight other cyber stores with roots in brick & mortar and catalog distribution previously received the nod. Crutchfield, the catalog and Internet retailer, which has a longstanding relationship with the manufacturer, holds the distinction of being the first merchant authorized to sell Sony products over the Web.
In December, Sony added five other sites to its short list of authorized online dealers, including Abt Electronics, Circuit City, Hifi.com, Stereo Advantage and Tweeter Home Entertainment. Last month, Vann's, the Montana CE and appliance store, and etown, the online information and referral shopping service, were similarly sanctioned to wave the Sony flag in cyberspace.
Sadowski said he first contacted Sony about selling its products through 800.com immediately after joining the company last January from Sun TV and Appliance, where he maintained a "long and very cordial relationship" with the company. Following a yearlong "deliberate process of fact-finding and then negotiation," he said Sony ultimately authorized 800.com "for its focus from its founding on infrastructure and customer service."
On a related note, Sadowski said he welcomed Sony's announced plans to step up its direct-to-consumer sales activity over the Internet this year, following the formation earlier this month of Sony Style.com, a new company charged with selling Sony products online in Japan.
"It is wholly appropriate for suppliers to offer their products directly to consumers," he said. "Ultimately it will be the customer's choice about how they acquire products. While there will be a percentage of customers who will prefer to buy directly from suppliers, we feel that the vast majority of consumers will prefer to buy through whatever channel offers a vast assortment of clearly presented products."