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WAL-MART EXPLORING HOME OFFICE RTA SHOP; GALLERY PROTOTYPE A HIT WITH CONSUMERS.

ROANOKE, Va.-Wal-Mart is test-marketing its "Inside Office" shop inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter here, and early consumer response has been positive, the company said.

Wal-Mart, looking to gauge interest in home office, set up the prototype department in August at this store, located on an outparcel of Valley View Mall, Roanoke's biggest shopping center.

The 250-square-foot shop is located along the high-traffic corridor near the entranceway and the checkout counters. Its neighbors include leased businesses, such as a portrait gallery and a vision center, not owned or run by Wal-Mart. But Inside Office is a Wal-Mart project all the way, according to Jessica Moser, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

Moser said the prototype shops would be created in a limited number of Wal-Mart stores to test consumer interest. "We are looking to open additional sites, but those haven't been picked yet," she said. "If it is not popular, we would just discontinue it."

But if Roanoke is a barometer, the concept could take hold. "It has been going really well," said Brian Inge, manager of the Roanoke store's Inside Office shop. "Everyone is happy with the quality of the merchandise."

Inside Office has on display several assembled workstations on the floor from various vendors of ready-to-assemble furniture, product that consumers can study and try out in a hands-on environment. Other mass merchants and discounters also offer RTA home office furniture, but space constraints force them to display assembled product on gondolas, a presentation that does not permit consumers to try out the models' features. The individual workstations, situated in the center of the shop, include models from O'Sullivan, Creative Interiors, Bestar, Sauder and Ameriwood. Bestar's L-shaped workstation retailed for $274.96, while Ameriwood's computer desk with hutch was $189.96. O'Sullivan's L-shaped workstation was $149.96. A Sauder computer armoire with a pegboard on the inside door was priced at $260.96. Accompanying home-office chairs, from True Seating Concepts, fall in the $90 to $162 price range.

O'Sullivan has provided some home-office planning guides emblazoned with the Wal-Mart logo for consumers that need help laying out their floorplans.

The walls of the Inside Office shop have on display other items commonly used in a home-office environment. Two-drawer filing cabinets are available from Steelworks for $59.96 in oak or cherry finish and from HON. Other items include trash cans, attache cases, multiple-line desk phones, adding machines and computer paper.

The test store also maintains a furniture section in the center of the store in which RTA entertainment centers, book shelves and desks geared to juveniles are on display on gondolas. But those items are lower in price and not geared to home-office shoppers.

The glass check-out counter at Inside Office has an array of Parker and Waterman ball-point pens, writing instruments of a quality level that Wal-Mart has not carried in the past. The home office shop is providing an opportunity for Wal-Mart to bring in more upscale items for professionals working out of their home, according to Inge.

"We have sold out of the fountain pens," he said.
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Comment:WAL-MART EXPLORING HOME OFFICE RTA SHOP; GALLERY PROTOTYPE A HIT WITH CONSUMERS.
Author:Kunkel, Karl
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 20, 1999
Words:506
Previous Article:FURNITURE BRIEFS.
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