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Ex-Curacao Crew Launching New Retail Venture

Encino, Calif. – Come October there’ll be a new retail kid in town with a decidedly Latin flavor.

Jerry Azarkman, co-founder of Curacao, the Southwest department store chain, and Rick Hutton, formerly its president, have left the Hispanic-leaning business to start a new one of their own.

Their brainchild, Star World, is envisioned as a CE, appliance and furniture showroom in three distinct sizes that, like their old haunt, caters to a decidedly underserved Latino market.

The stores, like their name, will feature a futuristic motif that speaks to the “unlimited potential” of the company and its customers, and will employ a “bricks-and-clicks” model of virtual inventory to keep overhead low and shoppers engaged, said Hutton, who serves as CEO.

Formats will include 30,000-, 10,000- and 5,000-square-foot concepts, with the latter targeting urban and tertiary markets. The smaller stores are where the hybrid bricks-and-clicks approach will pack its greatest punch, with interactive, web-based kiosks providing product details and purchase options in lieu of floor models.

The on-demand inventory will be shipped to regional warehouses by vendors and distributors, or delivered to the showrooms for in-store pick-up, or drop-shipped directly to customers’ homes.

Merchandise, including mattresses, toys, cosmetics, jewelry and sporting goods, will span the full pricing spectrum, Hutton said, with CE, fueled by 4K TV and audio, comprising 50 percent of sales. (Other electronics categories will include cameras, video games, computers, mobile, car A/V and media devices.)

Star World will also offer pan-category packages that combine, for example, TVs, sofas and rugs, and will provide in-house credit to help customers finance their purchases.

The company will feature competitive prices, but will pride itself on delivering an exciting in-store experience built around a knowledgeable sales staff. To help ensure its customers are wowed, associates will receive commissions not only for closing sales, but for their product knowledge and the customer experience they provide, Hutton said.

While launching into a shaky retail and CE market has its challenges, management believes its trim expense structure and the ready availability of prime real estate are a winning formula.

“We recognize that CE is a tough business but we still think it’s a great category with a lot of opportunity,” Hutton said. “In no way, shape or form are we giving up on this business.”

To make it work, “We’re being efficient and starting fresh,” Hutton told TWICE. “Successful retailers have to evolve and change. There’s a way to build it to be very competitively priced. Inventory can kill you, but our CE distributors are telling us to think of them as our logistics company.”

Plans call for the first two to five stores to open this fall, followed by a similar number in 2016. Once the model is proven, Star World plans to “ramp up significantly,” and has already identified some 739 potential locations around the country where Latino populations are not being served.

“People love to shop,” Hutton said. “Shopping is an experience, shopping is entertainment, and we’re creating a unique shopping experience.”