Starpower Opens Location, Mulls Major Rollout

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Starpower, the premium A/V retailer known for its high-end custom home theater installations and celebrity clientele, recently opened a new location in the Knox and Cole area here, replacing the recently-closed Oak Lawn store. The store soft-opened early last month and held its Hollywood-themed grand opening event on Aug. 31.

The 5,000 square-foot showroom is a new model for the destination store, as its other showroom, located in North Dallas, is double that size. The smaller footprint allowed the company to move into an area with more foot traffic than its other location, as its proximity to retailers like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn is expected to bring more customers into the store.

The new format is also intended to help the company expand more easily in the future. In fact, David Pidgeon, Starpower's president and CEO, told TWICE the company is planning to open a third store in Southlake, Texas in January 2007. After that, Pidgeon says the company's next location will be “out of state.” He did not mention a specific location, but said Starpower had pinpointed about 175 potential locations. He predicted the company could expand to up to 20 sites around the country in the next five years, but said it will not expand unless Starpower execs are sure “the mix is right.”

A big part of that “mix” as far as Pidgeon is concerned, seems to be making sure he will have the staff to support such an endeavor. All of Starpower's custom installations are performed by in-house installers. Pidgeon said the company currently has 20 specially-trained installation teams on hand and that it plans to hire and train more to meet the company's expansion goals.

He said “people are the lifeblood” of his business and stressed the importance of having a well-trained staff. He is cautious about expansion because he doesn't want to do it faster than he can properly train the growing staff to maintain the company's standards of service. He said “people buy people,” and that the traditional problem with taking mom-and-pop stores to the mass market in the past has been that “Once you take the person out, it crumbles.”

The new store's layout features a variety of custom-designed home theater vignettes that incorporate home furnishings and flooring from Starpower's sister company, Starflooring. There is even a room designed to look like a replica of the 12th hole at the Augusta Gold Club, which features a display of outdoor sound elements including faux rock speakers.

Starpower says its Knox and Cole location is the first in the country where the entire store is wired with HDMI cables to provide an improved picture on every TV in the store.

As the result of an exclusive launch partnership with LG Electronics, Starpower was also the first retailer in Texas to carry LG's 71W-inch HD plasma TV. The flat-panel TV was prominently displayed on the wall facing the front door of the Knox and Cole store, where it's likely to be the first thing customers see as they enter. The TV carries a suggested retail of $70,000 and is said to be the largest flat panel plasma TV currently on the market. Tanya Anderson, LG's channel marketing director said at the Starpower opening that the company has had a “great response” to the unit so far. “It's good for our position as an innovative brand,” she said.

Starpower's assortment includes LG, Sony, Pioneer Elite and Klipsch, among other brands, and the dealer is also a member of the Home Entertainment Source (HES) buying group.

Alan Jurgens, central regional sales manager for Klipsch said he views Starpower as a “great partner” for the audio manufacturer and that he considers the company among “the new brand of retailers.” He said that the retailer's use of custom-designed vignettes and destination retailing is so successful because it is reflective of consumers' modern lifestyle and “the way people are buying today.”

Customer service is a major focus for the Starpower organization, and it was a factor mentioned repeatedly by employees at all levels at the grand opening event. Starpower draws customers from as far as San Antonio, but it also has a number of accounts coast-to-coast. About 65 percent of its business comes from repeat clients or word-of-mouth referrals, and it boasts an average ticket of $15,000. Among the notable services offered is the company's relatively new V.I.P. service for customers who purchase more expensive installations. Amber Dinh, Starpower's VIP concierge, estimated that customers who spend a minimum of $50,000 are generally candidates for the service, which has been available for approximately eight months. The service allows clients 24-hour call-in service and provides them with perks like gift baskets after their purchase.

Also adding to the customer experience is the new store's “Dr Pepper Zone,” which was outfitted by nearby Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. The zone is an area where salespeople can bring customers to offer them a Dr Pepper or other beverage and discuss their installation plans.

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