Circuit City Debuts First New-Format Store In Florida

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JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- Circuit City unveiled the first newly built Superstore to feature its appliance-free format here last month.

The soft opening preceded a gala grand-opening celebration that was planned for this past Labor Day weekend.

Externally, the 33,500-square-foot strip mall unit appears no different than most Circuit City Superstores. But step inside, and the changes are striking.

By pushing the checkout counters to the front-left side of the box and improving the store's sight lines, the selling floor opens up to visitors, who can now take in the entire layout from the entranceway. From there, bright, color-coded, ceiling-hoisted signage directs shoppers to their destination departments via a wide, uncluttered racetrack.

But browsing, rather than power shopping, is what the redesign is all about. Light-toned wood floors, a contemporary color scheme and jacket-less sales attire were conceived to give shoppers a warm and fuzzy feeling, and to appeal to women who are turned off by the hard-edged, techno-heavy look of most electronics stores.

"We aimed for a comfortable feel in a big format," CEO Alan McCollough told TWICE. "We want people to stay and hang around."

"It's a browse-able store, and more female friendly," agreed John Froman, executive VP/merchandising. "We didn't want to alienate our core customers, but we wanted it inviting for women."

To that end, new amenities include shopping carts and baskets -- making it easier to tote selections and kids -- and more demo displays, which female customers had requested, Froman said. There's also a plethora of accessible pick-and-go product throughout the store (including laptops, albeit under lock and key) and dedicated checkout counters within key departments to ease the purchasing process.

Another stark difference: In place of appliances, there's a home office area featuring furniture, phones, peripherals, software and other accessories. Indeed, peripherals and software is one of three pumped up categories within the new store format, along with games and imaging, which benefit from the freed-up majap space.

"We're tied with Best Buy at the number of notebooks and PCs we sell, but we had little attachment to those sales," explained Froman, citing the chain's typical 48 software facings vs. 1,800 within the new format. "A 10 percent share of the peripherals/software market alone would equal our appliance business."

Similarly, current Circuit City stores "don't have the space to go beyond one brand [Sony] in games," he noted, while the new format boasts all three major platforms. "It's a $5 billion industry now and will be $9 billion in 2003. A modest share, just five or six percent, equals a half-billion dollars."

As for imaging, the retailer makes no bones about its intention to be a destination for cameras and camcorders, both digital and otherwise. "It's a very profitable area," Froman said, which explains its prime position, front and center, within the new format.

And thanks to improved, intuitive adjacencies, consumers interested in digitizing, printing or e-mailing their handiwork will find the store's computer and ISP departments behind the imaging area.

"We believe we'll get a lift in sales from these categories, and now have competitive assortments without compromise," Froman said.

Circuit City plans to bring the new format, which McCollough calls "our vision of the future," to all 570-plus Superstores via an aggressive, three-year remodeling program.

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