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Retail Excellence- American TV, Appliance & Furniture

August 2005
An old standby bucks new trends—and lives to tell about it

In the 1950s, mom-and-pop shops were hallmarks of successful entrepreneurship in local communities around the United States, but this notion of civility is still honored at American TV, Appliance & Furniture throughout its Midwestern locations. Though the chain has expanded well beyond its first small storefront, the retailer was among the first electronics chains to actually offer customers a cross-section of related goods, whether it was a new color TV or even a refrigerator. The 14-store-strong business, based in Madison, Wis., still sells a successful trinity of appliances, electronics and furniture, but with a new focus on lifestyle.

Changing of the Guard

David Shepard, senior vice president of American TV, Appliance & Furniture, has been with the company for more than 26 years. He says, "The business in the 1960s, when our company really transitioned from being a small ma-and-pa retail store, changed dramatically, particularly in the late 1960s. The business was driven by audio and was primarily promotion-oriented."

When hi-fi was king, American TV was wise to the movement, investing manpower in this highly successfully boon for the CE business. But he says shortly after audio soared into mainstream popularity, the "video boom"

shifted vested interests entirely into a new realm where simply considering hi-fi wasn't feasible for a chain looking to evolve with the best of what CE could offer.

"And beyond the video boom, our business has transitioned into a triad of furniture, appliances and electronics," says Shepard. This is true even by today's accounts. However, one thing setting American TV, Appliance & Furniture apart from the store Fred Mattioli founded in 1954 has more to do with presentation than simply price.

"The quality of display has become far more important," explains Shepard. Every store is exactly the same—retro-fitted with exactly the same footprint

throughout the Midwest, whether in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri or Wisconsin.

American TV also manages two distribution centers on the outskirts of Milwaukee and St. Louis, as well as a 44,000-square-foot service center in Madison which supplies product for all 15 locations. The private company, with an estimated 1,700 employees, enjoyed sales close to $350 million as of June 2005, according to Hoovers Online.

Audio ever after

Shepard says the store's primary focus these days "is to integrate audio with video so that high-definition TV is presented as an integrated experience rather than a stand-alone product."
 

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