Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of Systemax’s Technology Products Group, has more than a few strong opinions about brick-and-mortar and Internet retailing. And he knows whereof he speaks, as a principal in the company that bought the remains of CompUSA last year and Circuit City this year and has created a new retail model that leverages the strong points of both selling formats.
He has implemented his model, called “Retail 2.0,” online and in 29 retail storefronts of CompUSA and is two weeks into the acquisition of Circuit City’s brand name and the relaunch of its web site. “We’re already #9 in computers and electronics sales, and for the combined sales of CompUSA, Circuit City and TigerDirect.com, we’re #3,” he told an audience at a CEA Line Shows session Thursday.
“Is there a conceivable world where retail stores are replaced by the Internet? I don’t think so. People like to touch and feel products. And the event of unboxing is as satisfying as the event of ownership. The Internet doesn’t replace retail, but retail has to change.”
He said that in surveying the CompUSA store setup, he found an average of 177 screens “on display and doing nothing. It’s just like most TV stores – all the screens are playing ‘The Lion King.’ Can you see the back? No. Can you see accessories? No.” So his tactic, he said, is to employ rich Internet content by tethering computers via HDMI cable to each TV screen and using on-screen messaging that includes vendor-specific content.
“The products literally call out their own features,” he explained, “and if the customer presses a key on the computer, up comes a home page with features, user reviews, manuals. The whole store becomes interactive. It means that the same number of sales associates can handle more customers better, and the associate can self-educate about a product when not busy.”
He knew he had hit on something when, after implementing this and other similar interactive product displays in a single location, Fiorentino said he saw a 20 percent increase in sales conversion.
“This can work for selling paint, shoes, soft goods. It’s the evolution of shopping.”