I was checking out the merchandising displays for our HDNA all things high-definition promotion at the local Sony Style store at San Diego’s airy Fashion Valley Mall and thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little information about the growing impact of our 40 stores around the country and the accompanying sonystyle.com e-commerce site. And while the lion’s share of Sony’s consumer products are sold by hundreds of retail partners in thousands of stores nationwide, there are several dimensions to Sony Style that are very interesting…not to mention that I always enjoy visiting our stores.
Sony Style a is great place to test out consumer reaction to new products. For example, our Reader electronic book device and the U-series of ultra-small, micro PCs were both originally introduced online and in Sony Style stores. For the Reader, we also introduced it concurrently at Borders, but now it is available at Costco along with a number of other national and regional CE and PC dealers. As for the UX-series, which was a Sony Style exclusive, the consumer reaction has been so strong that we’ve gone ahead and introduced subsequent models at various authorized retailers, including Best Buy, Comp USA and Fry’s to name a few.
Sticking with PCs for a moment, we just announced a very limited number of two Maya Hayuk designed VAIO notebooks. Beginning this month they will be sold exclusively at Sony Style and for each one sold, a donation will be made by Sony to Creativity Explored – a non-profit organization supporting artists with developmental disabilities. There will only be 300 of each model produced, so get ‘em while they’re hot! This is the latest VAIO initiative in customization linked to Sony Style, where we have unveiled a variety of color treatments and designs that have been die-subbed into the shells of the notebooks. We also just began offering custom engraving on select PCs, Cyber-shot cameras and Handycam camcorders for customers at Sony Style.
In addition, this is where we first came out with different colored bezels to go around the frame of our BRAVIA flat-panel LCD televisions, so they could be more integrated into the design of people’s homes.Sony Style is a great place to find our top-of-the line products, whether it’s our XBR series of BRAVIA TV’s or our Alpha DSLR digital camera. You can obtain some of our more unique products as well such as the BRAVIA theater system television stand with its integrated speakers (including the subwoofer), which is designed to accomodate either 40 or 46-inch flat panel LCD TVs, along with an A/V receiver and Blu-ray disc or DVD player (sold separately).
The stores are warm and inviting. Their interior designs are contemporary and colorful, without being loud, abrasive or over-the-top. They have very helpful staff, including a concierge at the front of every store who will greet and try to help you. While in the store, you can play and learn how to use all of the products. Even the scent has been specially selected to keep people coming back.
Of course, Sony accessories of all kinds are available both in the stores and particularly online at sonystyle.com. In the stores, if you can’t find something, you can use the handy in-store kiosks to link to the e-commerce site to get what you’re looking for.
And being the “entertainment powerhouse” that our Chairman and Chief Executive Sir Howard Stringer has referred to Sony as, our stores also have a wide variety of movies and music videos available in both DVD and the new high-definition Blu-ray disc formats, as well as music CDs and PlayStation videogames.
One of the latest additions in 14 of the stores is an area we call “Backstage.” This is where you can get a lot of your VAIO computer questions and service needs taken care of, ranging from a general tune-up and data migration to memory upgrades. We are adding Backstage to four more stores in October and hopefully, as the concept gains interest, it will be expanded more widely.
Online, you can have your computer configured to order with a host of different options, specifications and personalized touches. The website is also a good place learn about the products, get the dimensions and check out the prices. The site also features “My 101” learning centers to help people learn more about everything from a beginner’s guide to high-definition, to a course on video editing and sharing, to a tutorial on editing digital photographs.
Another thing I’ve learned, based on some internal company research, is that the majority of people who come in contact with Sony Style and then go on to purchase a Sony product actually do so at one of our many retail partners…and not only are we perfectly fine with this, we encourage it. While the Sony Style stores and website have combined to grow to become one of our top retail channels, it still represents a fraction of our total consumer business.
Certainly, the heart of our consumer electronics business has always been and will continue to be with our valued retail partners for many years to come. With what we are learning at Sony Style, we are in a position to help our retail partners even more…by sending enthused and informed Sony shoppers their way…by sharing merchandising and promotions we’re also using in our stores…by rolling out new products that might have involved some risk on the retailers part after they’ve proven successful at Sony Style…and even by supporting retailers like Abt Electronics, Toys R Us, Ultimate Electronics and Electronics Expo with Sony “shop-in-shop” concepts.
Others take different approaches (e.g. Apple primarily focused on their stores and Dell on their direct phone/online service), which have been successful for the nature of their businesses. But given the vast product portfolio that Sony has to offer, along with the strength of our established network of retail partners, I believe we have found the right balance with the integration of Sony Style into what the industry calls a “multi-channel strategy.” Basically, it is an approach that hopefully provides people what they want when they want it from Sony, which includes options and choices in how they interact, learn and buy our products.
When you have a moment, I’d welcome your comments on any experiences you’ve had with Sony Style stores or our website.