Electronics Expo, the seven-store chain in New Jersey, officially opened its new Expo Design Center, corporate headquarters and Expo Express retail outlet Thursday in Wayne, N.J. The store is based on a relatively a new concept in regional CE retailing
The 88,435 square-foot building has a smaller sales floor than the chain’s other stores and highlights only select TV, audio, cable, furniture and digital imaging SKUs. But since the building also houses a warehouse (three times the size of its former warehouse) that services the entire chain, customers can order and pick up any product the chain carries.
While the public is welcome on the sales floor, it is mainly designed to attract architects, designers and builders. Leon Temiz, Expo’s CEO, said his team is also actively pursuing corporate and school sales, which the retailer didn’t focus on in the past but can now handle through its expanded sales force and its Xtecs installation services.
“You have to diversify your customer base,” Temiz said. “We’re doing a lot of different things, and we’ll measure each one. We’ll always measure. If it works, we’ll do more.”
Mike Testa, Expo’s home theater and retail store designer, and several top sales associates will have their desks, positioned on the sales floor so they will be immediately available for any customer questions.
“Other retailers have design consultants, but they’re usually not in an active showroom like this,” said Neil Connolly, district sales manager for Samsung’s camera division. “This concept helps market Samsung’s image. It shows off our TVs, sound and Blu-ray players together.”
Sections on one side of the store, as well as the center of the floor, highlight a single vendor’s high-end television, along with several source components and furniture units by a select group of manufacturers. The other side of the store features a row of TVs by different vendors.
“This is a different concept; it’s not traditional retail,” said Panasonic’s Tim McIlhenny. “A higher-end customer that doesn’t have the time but has the money can schedule an appointment, come in and see how the TV is conducive to sound, lighting and furniture. That’s hard to do on a traditional retail floor.”
One half of the back of the room features cameras and other imaging gear, while the other half highlights a media room vignette with a projector, retractable screen, TV and source components.
“A lot of consumers are creating multimedia rooms instead of dedicating an entire room to home theater,” Testa said. “People want more of a multipurpose room that they can do more things in.”
Testa, who designed the showroom using soft, earth-tone colors for a warmer, homier feel, said other consumer trends include a deeper appreciation for sound and demand for more aesthetically pleasing speakers.
“In-wall speakers are becoming more popular,” he said. “Speaker companies are also making sub-woofers that fit between the studs in the wall and are enclosed in low-profile cabinets. It’s changing so fast, and the quality is getting better and better.”
The building also includes an employee training room, a room for customer training and demo events, and a recycling center. Expo will charge customers for the training and will apply the cost to their next purchase. Customers will also receive store credit for recycling products.
Toward the end of the grand opening, Temiz and Rich Yanitelli, company vice president, told a crowd of vendors and media partners that the chain brought in about $130 million in 2008, the company’s most profitable year, and as of May is tracking at about $175 million.
Despite the projected sales growth, Expo will continue to be cautious about further expansion. If the opportunity is right, the company will consider opening another store, Yanitelli said, adding that commercial real estate prices are very attractive right now. The chain, he added, has no immediate plans to expand beyond the New Jersey area.
In other areas of business, Temiz said the company has partnered with the New York Yankees, Mets, Jets and Giants for marketing and advertising opportunities, and plans to expand its television and Internet campaigns.
Expo has also combined its traditional advertising and telecom departments with the Internet marketing and development divisions to help create better synergies between the two.
Expo will also continue to aggressively hire employees from the outside, including high-level executives from Circuit City, Yanitelli said, adding that the company will continue to groom and promote from within.
“We want to keep the Expo culture, but it’s important to bring in new people with new ideas,” he said.