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RETAILING GIANTS SPRINKLE SOME ELECTRONICS INTO MIX; LINENS AND BED BATH HAVE ADDED ELECTRONICS TO THEIR TRADITIONAL COLLECTIONS OF SOFT HOME AND HOUSEWARES.

Byline: Michael Rudnick

NEW YORK-The "beyond" in Bed Bath & Beyond and the "things" at Linens 'n Things are growing at both home furnishings giants, with some help from the consumer electronics category.

The two home retailers devote a small fraction of their floor space to the consumer electronics category, focusing primarily on tabletop electronics, such as clock radios and micro audio, as well as scattered gift items licensed by companies such as Jeep and Hummer.

A visit to Linens 'n Things and Bed Bath & Beyond stores within 15 miles of each other in the New York City area found electronics played second fiddle to other home products merchandise at the retailers.

A little digging is necessary to locate the electronics area at the Linens 'n Things, which is next to the larger stick goods/room air products section at the rear of the first floor. The consumer electronics area, like other sections of the store, was devoid of any identifying signs.

Consumer electronics items at Linens 'n Things were stacked on a wall of shelves about 15 feet high, from foot level to the out-of-reach top shelf. Shoppers were presented with a mix of some boxed products and a handful of displayed items. Price tags and product descriptions were absent, other than signs for markdowns -- usually the store's relatively bigger-ticket items, such as a Haier 13-inch TV at $119.99 or Crosley Conductor Entertainment Center at $149.99.

The absence of pricing and product information, missing boxed product and some out-of-reach items at the Linens 'n Things fostered a sales-assisted environment, as was evident by the sales staff circling the area.

The Bed Bath & Beyond's consumer electronics section was also devoid of signs, as opposed to those hanging above the neighboring wall art, frames and table linens sections. The consumer electronics section consisted of a relatively small island display centered on a walkway in the rear of the second floor.

The store compensated for the lack of consumer electronics signage by playing music on a CD player/clock radio to attract shoppers' attention.

Bed Bath & Beyond seems to have created more of a self-service consumer electronics environment than its competitor, as was evident by greater availability of within-reach boxed product and well-marked product and pricing information. Sales staff seemed to devote more effort to other areas of the store.

The Linens 'n Things store offered 10 consumer electronics SKUs, including mini and micro audio systems, such as the Hummer Stereo CD player and Sharper Image Sleek One CD Radio; multipurpose audio/video travel units, such as the Jeep TV/AM/FM Flash Fluorescent Lantern; clock radios, such as a HoMedics model; and a 13-inch TV from Haier. Prices (at least those displayed) range from $39.95 for the Sharper Image Emergency Radio and Spotlight to a $149.99 Crosley Conductor Entertainment Center.

Linens 'n Things brings private label into the consumer electronics arena with a handful of CD/DVD media towers located on the electronics aisle endcap. For the impulse buy on the way to the checkout aisle, shoppers could find a mix of smaller-ticket electronics products in the clearance area, such as a $14.99 Jeep Flashlight Radio.

Linens 'n Things offers a broader selection online, stepping up with 14 consumer electronics SKUs located within the gifts section. The retailer also primarily concentrates on tabletop and mini audio products online from such brands as Sharper Image, Hummer, Innovative Technology, Crosley, Wurlitzer and Jeep. Prices skew somewhat higher on the Web with a $279.99 Wurlitzer Mini Bubbler Jukebox topping the list.

The Bed Bath & Beyond store offered more electronics SKUs than Linens. However, the same could not be said for the breadth of subcategories.

The majority of Bed Bath & Beyond's 16 electronics SKUs fell within the clock radio category (some with CD players) with a Grundig Emergency Radio and JWIN Under Counter CD player added to the mix. Brands included Sony, Timex, Sound Design, Umbra, Emerson, SmartSet and HoMedics. Pricing skewed somewhat lower than its competitor's, ranging from $6.99 for a Sound Design LCD Alarm Clock to a $99.99 Sony CD AM/FM TV Band Kitchen Clock Radio.

Bed Bath & Beyond looks to be pushing attached sales in the consumer electronics area, as a variety of batteries and surge protectors could be located on the island display.

Like its competitor, Bed Bath & Beyond dabbles in media storage private label. A handful of private-label metal, wood and wicker CD/DVD towers ranging in price from $14.99 to $49.99 could be found tucked in the rear of the store's bottom floor amid area rugs. The retailer also offered a limited selection of storage solutions from other brands, including a $9.99 Case Logic double CD visor.

Bed Bath & Beyond's online electronics offering is slimmer than its store selection, with five SKUs making an appearance within the "The Perfect Gifts for Him" section of the Web site. Mini and micro audio dominate with such brands as Grundig, Sharper Image and JWin. Like its competitor, prices tend to be higher online with a $499.99 Grundig Satellite 800 Millennium Radio leading the way.

Bed Bath & Beyond declined to comment on its merchandising and Linens 'n Things did not return calls by press time.

Caption(s): The home retailing competitors look to place a secondary emphasis on consumer electronics.
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Comment:RETAILING GIANTS SPRINKLE SOME ELECTRONICS INTO MIX; LINENS AND BED BATH HAVE ADDED ELECTRONICS TO THEIR TRADITIONAL COLLECTIONS OF SOFT HOME AND HOUSEWARES.
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 28, 2005
Words:889
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