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Circuit City Gearing Up For Holidays

Circuit City is preparing for the holiday selling season by renovating stores, opening or relocating others, and editing its home entertainment assortment.

During the company’s annual shareholders meeting last month, executive VP/chief financial officer Mike Foss indicated that between 32 and 36 stores will either be opened or relocated during the current fiscal year. About one-third of the stores will be moved from “challenged real estate,” he said, and described relocations as the chain’s “biggest growth opportunity.”

Circuit City is targeting “all the major markets” for the new and relocated stores, Foss said, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

At the same time, the company is also preparing to roll out a new home entertainment format to more than 500 of its 630 stores in late autumn. The retrofits, described by senior executives as the largest remodeling effort in company history, are based on tests of two different formats at four of its 20 “Generation C” lab stores in New England and southern Florida. The new departments will feature extended plasma display walls, home theater vignettes and revamped audio demo rooms within upwards of 8,000 square feet of dedicated floor space.

As part of its home entertainment expansion, Circuit City plans to introduce audio and video component product lines from Denon and Boston Acoustics, both first-time additions from supplier D&M Holdings (see story, p. 1), while remaining laser focused on its core “stake-in-the-ground” flat-panel TV business.

To get all those home entertainment SKUs working in customers’ homes, the company is expected to introduce a branded, national custom install program next month that utilizes in-house and third-party resources. Foss described in-home digital services to shareholders as a $20 billion opportunity over the next five years.

Longer term, the company is exploring alternative retail formats to expand its reach, and recently hired RadioShack’s kiosk point man, Steven Pappas, to aid in the effort. “Catalogs, online, small stores, big stores, mall stores — these are all things we need to think about,” said recently named chairman Phil Schoonover. “We need to be where the customer is when they want to shop.”