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Comcast Considers Retail Channel Key To Growth

When it comes to the retail channel, Comcast casts a wide net.

Over the past four years, the Philadelphia-based multiple system operator has slowly, deliberately built a retail business that today reaches 5,000 locations nationwide, including storefronts Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples and regional CE chains. Touch points also include 31 Comcast kiosks, direct sales through Dell, numerous online outlets and, beginning last November, over 1,800 company-owned RadioShack stores.

“We’re committed to the retail business,” said Bob Faught, retail sales senior VP for Comcast Online, who, with the aid of a 100-person field sales team, oversees the sale of Comcast cable TV, broadband and VoIP services and related hardware through dealers.

Why does retail play such an important part in Comcast’s business plan? “First and foremost is to be in front of the consumer,” Faught explained. “We want to make sure that we are where the consumer is.”

The retail channel also greatly expands Comcast’s distribution, he said, and allows the products to be demonstrated before potential customers. To that end, the company invests heavily in training programs for store staff, as well as in-store displays that convey the features and benefits of Comcast’s services.

What’s more, retail presence also sparks impulse sales by a shoppers seeking “instant gratification,” Faught said.

Merchandising displays and point-of-purchase materials are fairly standardized save for each respective retailer’s own marks and colors. “We try to be consistent with how the products are presented at retail,” Faught noted. Displays are available for end-aisle and in-line placement, and are usually located near where PCs and peripherals, MP3 players, digital cameras or TVs are sold. The amount of dedicated shelf space varies between retail accounts.

Under Comcast’s arrangement, merchants are responsible for inventory, which consists largely of self-install modem kits. The company would not disclose the terms of its subscription sales.

Comcast offers cable TV programming in 35 states and provides broadband Internet access to some 8 million customers. Faught said the company has been “very aggressive in the retail marketplace” with the marketing and pricing of its broadband business, and that in turn “the retail community has really embraced us over the last year.”

Going forward, Comcast will complete the rollout of VoIP services which was launched last year in 21 markets and is currently found in 15 million homes, Faught said.