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Joe Barbat

BY CSA STAFF

Joe Barbat owes much of his success to Blockbuster’s national expansion. Barbat was working at one of his father’s seven video stores when the big chain rolled into his small Michigan town.

“Within 30 days, we felt the pain that comes when a national retailer comes into town,” said Barbat, 31, said. “It really impacted us. I had to quickly figure out a way that we could differentiate ourselves in the market.”

The year was 1995 and pagers and beepers were becoming a hot commodity.

“I had just bought a paging device and found it really fascinating,” Barbat said. “So I decided to buy some and put them up for sale in the store. A week later, we ran out of inventory.”

Under his direction, the video store where Barbat worked evolved into a mobile-communications destination under the new banner of Wireless Toyz. More stores followed. As cellular services expanded, Barbat helped pioneer the concept of offering wireless communications from multiple carriers, both national and regional providers, under one roof. Today, it offers one-stop shopping not only for cellular-phone service, equipment and accessories, but also for satellite TV and radio offerings.

“We are committed to connecting customers through any and every wireless device,” Barbat said. “If they can hold it in their hand, clip it on their ear or watch it on screen, Wireless Toyz is the place to purchase it.”

More than just selling high-tech devices, Wireless Toyz goes the extra mile in making sure customers understand how to use them.

“Customer service is our specialty,” Barbat said. “We teach shoppers how to use the products and check in with them on a monthly basis.”

Founder and CEO Wireless Toyz Farmington Hills, Mich.Annual sales: $69.7 million (est.)Type of business: Wireless-communications services and equipmentNumber of stores: 200 (includes franchised locations and 22 corporate owned)Areas of operation: 24 states

Wireless Toyz began franchising in 2001, and in 2002, started expanding outside its Michigan home base. It’s been growing at a steady clip ever since. With approximately 200 stores nationwide, Wireless Toyz still has plenty of expansion potential. Barbat hopes to take the company to 1,000 locations within the next five years.

“We want to be a strong brand in the consumer’s mind,” he added, “so that when they think of cell phones, they think Wireless Toyz instead of, for example, Sprint or Verizon. Because Wireless Toyz is where they can get those carriers.”

So what type of phone fits his lifestyle?

“A BlackBerry Pearl,” Barbat said. “It’s one of the best and most sleek tools out there. It has all I need.”

Although his BlackBerry makes work that much more accessible, Barbat said he’s learning how to shut it off.

“My wife is helping me with that,” he said, adding that he has two young daughters at home. “If you don’t have balance in your life, you won’t be as productive.”

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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