Sound Advice Re-Entering Car Audio; Staples, Add Wireless

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Sound Advice, Staples and Fry’s are among the growing roster of retailers that are entering new product categories to help boost revenue amid sluggish demand.

Sound Advice, the A/V specialty retailer that re-opened earlier this year after closing along with corporate parent Tweeter, will begin selling car audio SKUs in September. Dan Jeancola, who has a history with Sound Advice and Tweeter, will head up the division.

Peter Beshouri, Sound Advice founder and CEO, told TWICE the decision to return to the category stemmed from its popular demand. “The store has been open for three to four months, and about a full third of the customers coming in are previous customers of Sound Advice and customers for car audio. That really surprised me, frankly, because I wasn’t sure if there was still a real market for car audio.”

Beshouri said that Jeancola showed him all of the new technology in car audio. “I was very impressed, and it was clear [that car audio was] even a little more technical than it’s been, which is probably why some of the big box [stores] have scaled back. It’s a terrific service that allows us … to do something other people can’t or aren’t willing to do.”

He added that car audio will also once again serve as a way to reach the younger clientele. “That was always a helpful part of the Sound Advice history.”

For Staples and Fry’s, wireless represents the latest addition to their product offerings. The No. 1 office supply chain plans to roll out a pilot wireless program to about 500 stores by year’s end, while multiregional Fry’s is adding the category to its e-commerce site through a third-party arrangement with Simplexity.

Staples’ retail president Demos Parneros said the pilot is configured as an in-store three-carrier shop featuring phones and plans by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, and has already been tested in 100 stores. The wireless departments are manned by dedicated staffers who are hired and receive extensive training by a third-party provider which shares in revenue.

Staples, which trialed a small-scale mobile pilot 10 years ago, plans to roll the new concept out quickly to 400 stores in time for back-to-school season, and will add it to another 100 locations in the fourth quarter, Parneros told analysts at an investor conference last month.

The expansion comes as the company is cutting the size of its flagship stores by 15 percent, from 18,000 square feet to between 15,000 square feet and 16,000 square feet on average. Staples will pare back its furniture selection to accommodate the CE expansion within a smaller footprint, Parneros said, and stores will be converted or closed as 500 lease renewals, or one-third of its store base, come up over the next three years.

Meanwhile, Simplexity, parent of popular wireless e-tailer Wirefly, has built and launched an online wireless store for Fry’s. The site utilizes Simplexity’s fully integrated e-commerce platform that incorporates secure shopping, rapid activation, complete order fulfillment, as well as real-time order status and tracking, the partners said.

“Simplexity’s fully customizable turnkey solution for selling and activating cellphones and service plans online is second to none, and we are excited to deliver our seamless shopping experience to Fry’s,” said Marc Tolkov, Simplexity’s business development senior director.

– Additional reporting by Alan Wolf


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