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Dealer Profile : Nebraska Furniture Mart Brings CES to the Consumer

New CE division uses design best practices to increase sales

February 22, 2010 By Jeff O'Heir
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Nebraska Furniture Mart's new consumer electronics division, in its Kansas City, Kan., store started out about three years ago as a relatively simple concept. But, true to form, the company took the time to revise, expand and perfect its plans to create the best consumer experience it could.

Last week, about 140 vendor and manufacturer executives visited the new 51,000-square-foot CE division to see the fruit of that labor. Judging from some early responses, they weren't disappointed.

"When we were working with Nebraska Furniture Mart, they were focused on every little detail to make sure everything was just right," Greg Regelbrugge, vice president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics, said at the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony as he looked over the 1,850-square-foot Panasonic solutions display. "They've been true to their vision in bringing CES to the consumer."

The original vision was to create a Sony store-within-a-store in the Kansas City location.

But when Sony's architect looked at the space the NFM folks had chosen - an open area under a large skylight near the middle of the division - he said it was too large and too brightly lit. He suggested that management find a new location in the store. "What started out as a Sony store ended up being a whole reset," recalled Mark Shaw, NFM's electronics division merchandising manager

NFM chairman and CEO Irv Blumkin turned the architect's suggestion into an opportunity give the CE division a much-needed update. "What I have seen happen so much is that when retailers try to create a store-within-a-store, they don't integrate it with the rest of the store," Blumkin said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the new division. "At that point, we said 'let's take a look at the whole pie.'"

NFM hadn't changed its CE division much since the store was built in 2003, a time before the flat-panel boom, the gaming explosion, the iPod/iPhone phenomenon, the proliferation of Internet connected displays, the need for comprehensive product demonstrations and the importance of selling the full solution. "Our strategy is that we have to stay with the times," Blumkin said. "

The plans went through many revisions and included the input from nearly all of the division's sales associates, Shaw said. Construction began in phases about a year ago. The extra time and thought put into the renovation has paid off.

"There is no other retailer that can match this in terms of service, selection and value," said Jim Sanduski, Panasonic's new senior vice president of sales. "The other thing that distinguishes them (NFM) is that they have so many trained sales professionals. To have someone who can demonstrate product is important, especially with 3D coming out. They're very important to us."
 

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