Sony Electronics is on plan to have 30 Sony Style retail stores up and running by the end of the company's fiscal year in March 2006.
The build-out would meet Sony's goal of adding 15 locations this year after opening an equal number of new stores last year.
The company-owned stores are upscale electronics boutiques averaging about 6,000 square feet in size and are located in premium shopping malls around the country. The full-service stores showcase and sell an edited assortment of Sony products, and both the stores' design and the product offering are aimed squarely at women.
Besides the Sony Style chain and an e-tail presence at www.sonystyle.com, the vendor also operates two flagship showrooms, in New York and San Francisco, plus a dozen outlets for old and refurbished inventory located in factory outlet centers around the country.
Sony edged closer to its 30-unit goal for Sony Style late last month with the opening of three stores, in McClean, Va.; White Plains, N.Y.; and the tony Roosevelt Field shopping mall here in Garden City, N.Y.
Sony marked the occasion with a presentation at the new Garden City store by author and consultant Mary Lou Quinlan, who said that while 85 percent of every purchase in the United States is influenced by women, females have been largely overlooked by the CE industry. Women are turned off by the noisy, cluttered and chaotic store environment of most CE specialty chains, she said, and should find the natural tones, personal attention, smartly furnished vignettes and subdued sounds of Sony Style more inviting.
“Women don't want to know about specs. They want to know how the device will fit into their lives,” said Quinlan, who also worked with Best Buy on its customer centric “Jill” stores.
Also on hand was Sony's Dennis Syracuse who, as senior VP for CRM and direct business, built the chain from scratch over the last 33 months. “We were given the order to open at the 2003 CES,” he recalled.
Over that time, Sony has never received a complaint from other dealers over potential competition from a supplier. “We don't go head-to-head with other chains,” Syracuse said. “Our stores are more experiential. Shoppers can try out a product here and then goes somewhere else to buy it.”
Although the stores serve as a Sony showcase, Syracuse is still expected to turn a profit, which makes obtaining favorable real estate terms an even greater imperative. And aside from limited lead times on select products and a small number of exclusives like colored Vaio notebooks, he gets no special treatment from Sony. “I'm treated just like any other dealer,” he said.