Service in The City
Consumer technology continues to mature on a seemingly daily basis, so it is no wonder that overwhelmed consumers tend to use only between 10% and 20% of their technology’s functionality, said Brooks Gordon, senior program manager, remote services, Circuit City Stores.
The chain’s well-recognized “firedog” technology support service was created with these shoppers in mind. While the electronics retailer’s firedog support division is increasing sales and customer satisfaction year-over-year, a new wireless device at The City stores is further broadening the service’s appeal.
Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City launched its firedog service almost two years ago to help shoppers who needed a little “personal” support in mastering their computer’s functionality, or simplify their home-theater or car-electronics installations. Besides easing the frustration of installing and using new technologies, Circuit City’s service is providing shoppers a better customer experience— on their terms.
“Firedog is a total service offering that provides one-on-one expertise. And our technicians can help shoppers in-store, at home, or remotely online,” Gordon told Chain Store Age. “I came aboard almost a year ago to grow the company’s remote services, and the service is a great fit for the merchandise we sell.”
As shoppers make an electronics purchase at Circuit City stores or online, they have the option to join firedog’s service. (Fees are based on the complexity of electronics.)
Shoppers register their merchandise and create an account line at www. firedog.com. If they chose a home or in-store visit, they can schedule a time. Remote services will help a customer immediately via the secure firedog Web site.
“Technology changes rapidly,” Gordon added. “Firedog’s remote services are a strategic advantage to offer our shoppers. It gives them a way to master their electronics outside of the traditional store and home-service channels.”
Circuit City reported $11.743 billion in sales for fiscal 2008, ended Feb. 28. Meanwhile, sales for its firedog division are on the rise, jumping 29%, to $268.9 million, for fiscal 2008.
Circuit City is giving firedog even more exposure at its new The City format stores. The new stores, which launched in June 2007, feature an average of 20,000 sq. ft. of selling space, and were designed “with the customer experience in mind,” Gordon said, adding the new format delivers a more personalized shopping experience through interactive sections where shoppers can test electronics and services.
At the core of these customer interactions is a wireless tablet PC. Linked to proprietary software, the tablets wireless-ly communicate with Circuit City’s network.
“Associates carry the tablets as they walk throughout the store, enabling them to answer questions and service shoppers beyond the sales counter,” explained Jim Babb, spokesman for Circuit City. “As the wireless network delivers product information directly to the tablets, associates can expertly service store-level shoppers about merchandise, firedog services, and even sign them up for firedog directly through the units.”
The chain opted for tablets over wireless PDAs (personal digital assistants) due to their robust functionality, and the chain continues to load the units with applications. For example, the tablets can demonstrate capabilities of merchandise, and support Web services.
The Web-based units also keep sales associates abreast of product availability in-house, as well as in the warehouse.
Currently there are more than a dozen tablets, provided by Fujitsu, in use across all 24 The City stores.
Michaels comps down for the quarter
IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.
Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”
For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.
Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%
JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.
The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.
Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.