Retailers Underscore Expertise, After-Sale Service - TvTechnology

Retailers Underscore Expertise, After-Sale Service

It's not uncommon this holiday selling season to see flatscreen HD monitors not too far from the lawn mowers and paint counter at Home Depot and other nontraditional CE outlets. Such big-box stores are not about to shift into CE mode 12 months of the year, but they are trying out some of the more popular electronic ite
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It's not uncommon this holiday selling season to see flatscreen HD monitors not too far from the lawn mowers and paint counter at Home Depot and other nontraditional CE outlets. Such big-box stores are not about to shift into CE mode 12 months of the year, but they are trying out some of the more popular electronic items this season, even if those products are 42-inch plasma and LCD monitors.

In response, traditional CE retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City are trying to add an extra edge to their sales efforts by offering what most of the non-CE chains (such as Wal-Mart and Costco) would not be able to accomplish: on-site expertise and follow-up service on DTV-centric ware, including the surround-sound system sales and installations that may follow the HD sets to the family room.

According to the Associated Press, Best Buy recently increased training for its staffers and has grown the number of its own "Magnolia" Home Theater stores-within-a-store to more than one-third of its 800 Best Buy outlets, which is triple the number of Magnolia sites in the past year. Best Buy execs said this season virtually every HD model on the show floor is likely demonstrating an HD image (not an SD upconversion or standard DVD disc), and many of its outlets now boast a side-by-side comparison of identical HD and SD content.

One Best Buy official said up to 90 percent of his HD customers, in his estimation, are not aware that what they view on an HD set is not automatically HD content. A Best Buy shopper outside Minneapolis reportedly said he had noticed an improvement in the company's sales force. "They've gone from a bunch of high school kids that didn't know anything, to actually providing some intelligent information."

Circuit City has employed similar sales tactics, along with generous price guarantees that remain in force within 30 days of purchase (HD Notebook, Nov. 29, 2006). And on the manufacturer side, Panasonic unveiled its "Plasma Concierge" service several months ago, providing free tech support for its HD customers.