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Retail Roundup: A Rundown Of Independent Dealer Doings

Abt Opens Sony Shop

Glenview, Ill. — Abt Electronics has opened a 1,700-square-foot Sony boutique that the manufacturer describes as its largest and most elaborate store-within-a-store project to date. The shop, a scaled-down version of Sony’s own SonyStyle retail stores, is Abt’s fourth dedicated boutique, joining similar setups for Apple, Bang & Olufsen and SubZero/Wolf.

Roughly one-fifth of the Sony shop’s space is occupied by a home theater installation featuring a 60W-inch XBR2 RPTV, the six-piece Platinum DVD and surround sound system, and bench-style seating. Other products include digital cameras, camcorders and photo printers, gaming consoles, computers, and boomboxes. Interactive demos include a PlayStation guitar game setup on a 46W-inch flat panel LCD, Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution dance pad and a functional camera-computer-printer display.

“Products that work together are displayed together,” said Jay Vandenbree, president of Sony Consumer Sales Company. “This gives consumers a perspective they can’t get in traditional category-by-category merchandising.”

The shop is staffed by specially-trained Abt personnel, and all boutique products, except computers and gaming equipment, are also displayed on Abt’s main sales floor.

“We designed our showroom for experienced-based shopping and our Sony shop fits right in with that strategy,” said CEO Bob Abt. “This is a simple and enjoyable way to shop.”

Indeed, Abt’s 65,000-square-foot sales floor is renowned for its interactive attractions, including a plasma TV windmill and signature 7,500 gallon fish tank. The PRO Group dealer and recent TWICE Excellence in Retailing Award winner is also a favorite proving ground for manufacturers from Whirlpool to Yamaha for testing new products and concepts.

Karl’s Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Sioux Falls, S.D. – Karl’s TV & Appliance had plenty of cause for celebration this season, as the 18-store chain celebrated its 50th anniversary in business and the re-opening of an expanded showroom, warehouse and service facility here.

The company was founded by owner Elmer Karl in 1956 after the Korean War vet opened a TV repair shop in Gregory, S.D. Fifty years and 17 stores later, the longtime MARTA Co-op dealer and current Nationwide Marketing Group member continues to thrive in an increasingly competitive market by putting a personal face on the business and providing quality service and in-house repairs.

“Our niche in the market is that we’re a self-servicing store,” Karl had told TWICE. “We do our own repairs, installations and deliveries. We’re just a strong independent that services our customers” — a message that is conveyed through the company’s slogan, “Your servicing dealer since 1956.”

More recently, the company combined its two Sioux City stores into a single retail, service and warehousing center, without any concomitant reduction in staff. The consolidation is intended to provide a more convenient, one-stop solution for customers, the company said.

To mark the store reopening and the company’s anniversary, Karl’s held a series of celebratory events including a ribbon cutting ceremony, a Frigidaire giveaway, and a donation with Whirlpool to Habitat for Humanity.

P.C. Richard Reopens Legacy Store

Bayside, N.Y. — P.C. Richard & Son, the 49-store white- and brown-goods regional powerhouse, has reopened its busy Bayside, N.Y., site after a nine-month absence.

The original single-level, 10,000 square-foot-store facility, opened in 1992, was torn down in February and rebuilt from the ground up. “The floors sagged,” said CEO Gary Richard, third-generation principal, of the previous structure. In its place stands a gleaming two-story store with more than 25,000 square feet of space that still conforms to its original footprint.

The project was the chain’s third remodeling effort in recent memory. “This is my third store opening, but we still have 49 stores,” Richard joked.

Less amusing was Wal-Mart’s recently announced price cuts on key CE products (see story p.1). “They’re killing the plasma business,” he said. “In August customers were willing to pay $2,500 or $3,000 for a name-brand TV. Now they expect to pay less.”

So what’s an independent dealer to do? “We will respond with service, not just price,” Richard said. “It’s the only thing we can supply. We can sell it, deliver it, install it and service it, and when it breaks we can sell you another one. We do it all — we don’t hand it off. We’re you’re daddy across the whole ownership experience.”

Bernie’s Hosts Charity Bash

South Windsor, Conn. — Bernie’s, the New England brown- and white-goods chain, hosted a Bernie’s Bourbon Street Bash and Auction earlier this month to benefit Covenant to Care for Children (CCC), a Connecticut non-profit that provides assistance to abused, neglected and at-risk children and teens.

Bernie’s CEO Milton Rosenberg was the honorary chairman of the event’s silent and live auctions, proceeds of which will go to program and administrative support of the CCC. For more information, visit

— Alan Wolf