Retailing Briefs

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CompUSA Kills cozone.com
Having found its white knight in Mexican turnaround king Grupo Sanborns, CompUSA has pulled the plug on its five-month-old e-commerce site cozone.com and returned the CE e-tail operation to the CompUSA.com fold. At the time of its launch, observers were bewildered by the breakaway brand, which had forsaken the franchise of its more popular parent. Analysts saw it as a lifeboat for the ailing specialty chain, or a saleable spinoff that could bankroll the store's turnaround strategy. But with CompUSA's financing now assured, the retailer has reintegrated the site and added such bricks & clicks tricks as in-store returns, e-mails of Sunday circulars and local inventory checks.

Internet Tax Commission Comes Up Empty Handed
The Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce has failed in its mission to present an Internet tax strategy to Congress. The commission, which held its final meeting last month, couldn't reach a required two-thirds consensus on a majority proposal that e-tail taxes be held off until at least 2006 in states where the seller has no brick & mortar presence. The moratorium was backed by 11 of the commission's 19 members, including its chairman, Gov. James Gilmore III of Virginia, and executives from AOL, AT&T, Gateway and MCI Worldcom. But Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, cheered on by a coalition of retailers that included Wal-Mart and RadioShack, accused Gilmore's faction of a "multibillion-dollar tax grab" that favored pure-play e-tailers. The upshot: The Senate Finance Committee said it would hold hearings on the matter soon, and states are expected to begin simplifying their tax systems in anticipation of an eventual "level playing field" e-tax.

ASI Links To EverythingDecor
Assured Systems Inc. (ASI), the high-end A/V dealer confederation, will be the exclusive anchor "store" within the home theater section of EverythingDecor.com. The site, which launches in May, is a home decorating shopping portal that will provide consumers and decorators with referrals to 4,000 independent brick & mortar retailers spanning 10 industries. "This is a very significant strategic move to enhance the ability of our Assured retailer network and our industry as a whole to attract new and different customers by harnessing the growing influence of the Internet," said ASI president/founder Steward Greenberg. "This new partnership complements and enhances our retailers' mission of providing home entertainment solutions rather than competing solely on price, brand and specifications." Representing 140 storefronts, ASI members carry the Assured line of custom products, including Phase Technology home theater and custom-installed in-wall speakers, and an eponymous private-label extended warranty plan for whole-house custom-installed projects.

Online Buys Of CE, Majaps Fall Sharply In February
Consumers bought markedly fewer brown and white goods over the Internet in February than they did in the preceding month, according to the latest NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index. The study, conducted by the National Retail Federation, Forrester Research and Greenfield Online, showed that total CE purchases fell to $87.4 million last month from $126.1 million in January, while appliance sales dropped to $3.6 million from $9.7 million the month prior. Most precipitous was the falloff in purchases of computer hardware, which plummeted to $152.9 million in February from $224.4 million in January. One reason for the slower sales: fewer shoppers. Only 12.6 million shopped online last month compared to the 13.7 million who did so in January, despite a gain in total retail spending for the period. Observed NRF VP Scott Silverman, "The Internet as a retail channel remains volatile, but as it matures we expect online spending to more closely follow the overall industry trend."

Dot-Comings And Goings.
Denon
has added Denver-area A/V dealer ListenUp to its authorized Internet retail program. As part of the agreement, ListenUp will merchandise Denon products locally via GetPlugged.com, the specialty marketing website created for CE vendors and retailers by KnowledgeLINK. CETrade.com, the two-month-old online business-to-business exchange, has passed the $1 million mark in transactions. The wholesale buying service, co-founded by Renato Vaisman and Ken Kristal to service the CE and computer industries, already boasts more than 300 member companies.

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