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Sony Revamps Store Format With ‘Style’-Free Prototype


Sony Electronics debuted a
next-generation format for its direct-channel retail
stores here last week that emphasizes connectivity
and live displays.

As part of the redesign, the chain and e-commerce
site, currently branded as Sony Style,
will simply be dubbed Sony.

The launch follows the closing of 11 Sony
Style stores in as many states on March 20,
leaving the chain with 30 locations.

The new showroom, located here at the
Westfield Century City shopping mall, borrows
a page from Apple Stores with its bright, open
sales floor and live, table-height displays designed
to encourage consumer demos.

The format also features a new Premium Services
support program, reminiscent of Apple’s
famed Genius Bar, which will provide customers
with assistance and education by trained
staff and certified technicians. Services include
product setup, repair facilitation and IT support,
as well as home delivery and A/V installation.
Some services will be complimentary, and others
will carry a fee.

The new retail concept comes 16 months
after Sony hired away Apple’s longtime senior
regional store director Linda Turner as senior
VP of Sony Style retail stores, and gave her
responsibility for the chain’s strategic and operational
direction, including all aspects of the
customer experience.

“Sony’s goal is always to exceed customer expectations by providing an exciting, interactive and entertaining
shopping experience,” said Sony Electronics
president/COO Phil Molyneux. “Our new store concept
gives shoppers an opportunity to interact with trained and
knowledgeable staff as well as preview, test, compare and
unlock the full potential of Sony’s entertainment offerings.”

To that end, the prototype will provide live demos of
Sony products and content including video games, cameras,
headphones, 3D movies, and networked services
like Music Unlimited and Video on Demand powered by
Qriocity. It will also showcase future and emerging technologies
and innovations, such as Sony’s RayModeler, a
360-degree display prototype that projects a 3D image
which can be seen from all angles.

The 4,200-square-foot showroom, designed in collaboration
with Klein Dytham architecture (KDa), also features movable
interior walls and changeable color schemes, affording
it a flexible layout that can be reconfigured to highlight specific
products, services, or content, and provide a “fresh experience”
for returning customers, the company said.

Zeena Freeman, who heads up Sony Corp.’s global retail
office and serves as consumer business development
senior VP for Sony Corporation of America, described the
new showroom as “a significant step in building a blueprint
for future Sony stores, both in the U.S. and around
the world.

“In this store, Sony is eager to test innovative offerings
and listen and learn from customer feedback. We
will gather opinions so that we can continually evolve and
improve our retail experience, both here in the U.S. and
around the world,” she said.

Sony did not announce a timetable for new store expansion.
It currently operates 29 Sony Style stores in the U.S.,
down from a peak of more than 40 stores in 2008, along
with 15 outlet locations.

Freeman noted that the decision to drop “Style” from the
direct-sell brand reflects Sony’s “increasing focus on providing
an integrated shopping experience that features all
that Sony has to offer, from hardware to content to services.”
The company said the shortened moniker will also allow
customers to more readily recognize the Sony-direct channel,
and hopes to have all stores rebranded by year’s end.

It is not clear if elements of the new store design and
branding will also be integrated into the in-store Sony
shops found at select dealers.

The concept store officially opened on April 1, and
was heralded with a three-day-long giveaway contest announced
over local radio station KIIS FM. In addition, a
live in-store performance by Grammy-nominated singer/
songwriter Natasha Bedingfield was scheduled for April 2.