What's In Store For Tweeter: A Peek At The New Prototype

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Want a peek at Tweeter's store of the future?

Then take a gander at one of its newest units located in upscale Burlington, Mass., a Boston bedroom community.

Tweeter regards the 14,000-square-foot format as its prototype, so you can bet that any new stores or conversions throughout the five-chain group will emulate the look, feel, size and layout of this one.

Following Tweeter's newest formula for picking locations, the outlet was recently moved from the posh Burlington Mall to a nearby freestanding site that adjoins a Gateway store and faces an older Circuit City unit across the highway.

According to store manager Neal Taylor, volume has increased threefold since leaving the mall, where limited space hampered sales. The new space is considered optimal, he said, because "if the store is any larger, we have to fill the shelves with things we don't want. But if it's too small, you can't properly show the big screen TVs."

That is clearly not a problem within the new format, which features in the main section a wall of large screen models, including HDTVs. Smaller units are consigned to a back wall on a raised aisle, where DVD players and surround sound systems are also displayed.

A Sony plasma TV gets its own demonstration room, however, as do high-end audio components and a state-of-the-art home theater system--the latter featuring cineplex-style seating and a popcorn dispenser.

"The business is driven by video, so we devote a lot of space to it," Taylor said. "But there isn't sufficient margin in that category, so our emphasis is still on audio."

Other amenities include a Kids' Zone play area that allows parents to shop while keeping an eye on their children via overhead monitors.

But the store's most striking aspect is its eye-catching design. The box's exterior is stark and windowless, its green and white corrugated siding broken only by a small red logo, a pair of auto installation bays and the entrance.

Inside, the look suggests a high-tech stage set, replete with overhead floodlights, an airplane hangar ceiling and handpainted murals. Product areas are identified by colored neon signs created in a loose, handwritten style, and are sectioned off with pastel-colored, free-form panels reminiscent of Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Taken together, the effect is warm and dramatic, and creates an exciting and inviting environment in which to peruse Tweeter's wares. -- Alan Wolf

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