SANTA MONICA, CALIF. –
Video & Audio Center wants to create CE retail excitement, with special events and a department store approach that showcases top brands
But Video & Audio Center is no newcomer. It is 30-year-old mainstay in the Southern California market owned by brothers Mayer Akhtarzad, president, and Joseph Akhtarzad, VP, with its headquarters store here, another location in Agoora Hills and a new store that opened Labor Day weekend in Lawndale that serves the greater Torrance area.
Joseph Akhtarzad said that since the beginning, “We have always highlighted top quality lines and top-ofthe- line products. We have introduced a lot of technology over the years, [including] the first Sony OLED, the Sharp 108-inch LCD, and others.”
More recently, Video & Audio Center held a pre-launch for the Sony Tablet S last month that was covered by local media outlets and drew crowds to the new Torrancearea store.
Tom Campbell, a well-known industry retail veteran who has hosted plenty of these events in the past for a variety of chains, just joined as company spokesman and corporate advisor. He noted, “We expected to sell a few, but we sold 37 Sony Tablet S units and had a long line of people waiting to see the product.” Customers returned to the store to pick up the products on the official launch date of the Tablet S, and since then the chain has been sold out of the line.
“This has to send a strong message to [the industry] that consumers still want something new, something different,” Campbell said.
Expect more events from Video & Audio Center as the holiday season approaches, which will highlight notable products and technologies to create good oldfashioned retail excitement.
The company also operates Just One Touch, a well-known custom-installation operation founded in 2000 with a showroom based here. Just One Touch is also part of each Video and Audio Center retail location, “just like Magnolia at Best Buy,” said Joseph Akhtarzad.
Video & Audio Center has been a member of the Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) buying group for close to a decade. Asked the size of the company, Akhtarzad did not answer directly, but just said, “We could be in the top 20 or 30 in [TWICE’s] Top 100 CE Retailers list, and are one of the largest independent Sony retailers in Southern California.”
When it comes to brands, Video & Audio Center has a somewhat unique approach – branded departments, which began three years ago. As Joseph Akhtarzad explained, “We got the idea from department stores. They are separated by brands. When we carry a manufacturer we try to carry everything, from A to Z.”
He noted, “When you walk into our stores you don’t see a wall of TVs. It is like, for us, the Consumer Electronics Show. When a consumer comes in the store and wants a Sony, they go to that department. There is no confusion.”
As a result, while there are “over 150 TVs on display at our stores, the way the boutiques [branded areas] are designed, you don’t realize that.”
The chain works very closely with vendors such as Sony, Samsung, LG, Sharp and others when it holds a special event or around the holidays, with supplier reps on hand to answer questions. “We have extremely close relationships with our suppliers and are true partners,” Akhtarzad said, noting that it is not always about the best deal.
One of the keys to the success of his business, especially during a troubled economy, is that “we believe in changes, daily if need be, and we can implement them right away. We make decisions quickly based on market conditions.”
What is also notable is that the chain carries “a full line … of what we think is in demand to get customers to our store.”
While online sales are important for Video & Audio Center, customer feedback and word of mouth comes from the retail sales floor and also from its custom installation business. “While customers can research product online and buy from us online, we hope they come to our stores,” Akhtarzad said.
There they will find a trained sales force “that knows about the features and benefits of individual TVs, for instance. And we can provide installation of TVs,” as well as home automation and home networking systems, so consumers “don’t have to worry about it.”
He added, “If we do our business right we will get feedback from clients, and often their friends call us. You have to provide the right service and the right mix of products – from e-readers, tablets, iPod and iPads to even cordless phones. We want to be the one place for all our customers’ electronics needs.”