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How Video & Audio Center Bested Black Friday

Amid last weekend’s holiday shopping frenzy, when doorbuster deals drew large crowds and low margins, at least one independent tech dealer decided to take a different tack.

Video & Audio Center (VAC), the Los Angeles specialty chain, is no stranger to early-bird specials and long customer queues. But this year, recounts corporate director Tom Campbell, the four-showroom retailer assumed an anti-Black Friday stance.

“There were no $9 Blu-ray players here,” the newly minted CE Hall of Famer told TWICE. “We were going after more mid- and upper-tier products” — like the 65- and 75-inch TVs by Samsung, Sony, Sharp and LG that proved to be the weekend’s biggest sellers.

What the company gave up in long lines was made up by a steady stream of qualified traffic that sent Sonos sales “through the roof” and made 4K the choice for 85 percent of TV purchases.

“We went for quality and it worked,” Campbell said.

Also boosting business was the departure of longtime local competitor Paul’s TV, as well as VAC’s decision to open on Thanksgiving for the first time. Holiday hours were limited to 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., followed by a 7:30 opening on Black Friday morning.

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All told, the strategies worked, with sales volume up 37 percent for the holiday weekend, even factoring in what Campbell described as “some of the [industry’s] largest price drops ever.”

Unit volume, he noted, was even higher.

Campbell said the big lesson for VAC and other brick-and-mortar retailers is that despite smaller Black Friday crowds this year, “Storefront retail is not dying; it’s evolving.

 “Those who evolve will prosper and grow” — as VAC is out to do with its recently-opened interactive flagship store. “Those who do not will meet a quick death, as evidenced by those already shut down this year.”