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CIRCUIT CITY, BEST BUY SHOW SOUND JUDGMENT.

Byline: Michael Rudnick

NEW YORK-Circuit City and Best Buy take varying approaches to merchandising audio systems, a category that includes mini stereo-shelf systems and more compact micro audio products. HFN explored some of the stores for both retailers in New York City.

Positioning

The micro and mini audio systems in Circuit City are grouped at the rear of the store, sandwiched between component audio, home theater-in-a-box systems and, in one store, portable audio. The larger-format Union Square location showcases a $249.99 Panasonic 5-Disc DVD/CD Shelf System in its "Cool Gadgets" section located in the front of the store -- possibly an effort to draw attention to its design-focused offerings within the category.

The mini and micro systems at Best Buy are grouped within the "Audio Systems" section toward the rear of the store, squeezed between component audio and home theater-in-a-box.

Sales Floor

Sales assistance seems to be a top priority within Circuit City's audio systems section, as customer service stations are at arm's length from displays. Limited box product is available, further fostering a sales-assisted environment.

Best Buy seems to create more of a self-service environment -- customer service areas are restricted to other areas of the store and boxed product is more prevalent.

Assortment

Circuit City carries 10 micro audio SKUs in its stores, ranging from the $49.99 Orient Power Single Shelf System to the $399.99 Onkyo 3-CD Shelf System. Other brands include Panasonic, JVC and Sharp. At its smaller-format Upper East Side location, these sleek microsystems are mixed in with the larger chrome and blinking light-decked mini-systems, while they stand separate in the larger-format store. Mixed in with the micro systems at the uptown location are a handful of retro shelf-stereo systems mimicking the look of vintage radios and jukeboxes from brands such as Centrios, Seal Electronics and Classic.

Ironically, when it comes to mini-systems, seemingly, the bigger, the more expensive at Circuit City. The retailer offers 12 mini-system SKUs, ranging from the $69.99 Venturer 6-CD Shelf System to the $399.99 Sony 3-CD Shelf System.

Satellite radio has made its way into this audio section at Circuit City as Delphi's SkyFi Home Kit, Receiver and Roady2Receiver could be found perched next to micro audio systems in the larger-format store.

Best Buy, which is seeking to make a bigger play at a female audience with new customer-centricity stores, places a lesser emphasis on big, bulky, testosterone-charged mini systems, with only six models, ranging from a $99.99 RCA 160-Watt 5-CD Shelf System to a $299.99 JVC 5-Disc CD/MP3 Playback Shelf System.

Microsystems occupy a larger piece of the pie at Best Buy with 10 SKUs available, ranging from the $54.99 Craig Executive System to the $249.99 Panasonic 140-Watt 5 DVD/CD/MP3 playback system. Other brands include Sony, Philips, Sharp, JVC and Emerson.

Service Plans

Best Buy takes the stance that if it's broken, don't fix it, replace it. The retailer advertises replacement plans on the product spec sheets ranging from $8.99 to $39.99 for its micro and mini systems. At one location, pamphlets detailing the two-year product replacement plan are scattered throughout the section. However, at another location, while the replacement plans are advertised, pamphlets for the four-year performance service plan are also placed throughout the section, presenting shoppers with an option.

Circuit City looks to pad margins and foster return business with a three-year City Advantage service plan in the $30 ballpark advertised on the product spec sheets.

Caption(s): Left: Best Buy seems to create more of a self-service environment, as is evident by prevalent boxed product. Right: Retro micro audio systems are mixed in with other micro systems at Circuit City.
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Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:May 2, 2005
Words:616
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