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HD-DVD Merchandising At Fry’s: The Look And Sound of Incompetance

I took this picture with the camera in my Blackberry Pearl back in November 2007. I was at Fry’s Electronics in Houston to pick up a few things and thought I’d swing by the TV department to see what was new. I was shocked when I saw the display pictured on the left.

Here you see what could have been a really nice end-aisle display of Toshiba HD-DVD wares. It has one of the nice new Toshiba LCDs, a couple of HD-DVD players and a nice assortment of discs. So what’s the problem you ask?

If you look at what’s on the LCD-TV it’s the local Fox affiliate, off-air in SD running Judge Judy. This is just simply wrong in so many ways.

It’s not HD , it’s SD. It’s not even good quality SD, it’s crappy off-air with no cable. The players are right there in the display. The discs are right there, too!! My guess is that the department staff didn’t or couldn’t work out how to make one disc repeat endlessly, so they just tuned something they might like to watch.

I bet Toshiba paid a considerable sum to mount these displays. I hope they know how great an effort their retail partners made as well.

BTW, when I was seen to be taking a picture I was approached by a salesperson who was otherwise trying to avoid being engaged. He told me to stop and that taking pictures was not allowed in the store. I guess they don’t want their merchandising magic being leaked to competitors.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. What salespeople actually do with the endcaps that Toshiba, Sony, or anybody else provide for display is difficult for the manufacturers to control. You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of these things sent out all over the country, to stores and employees with varying levels of skill and product awareness.

    I’ve seen a Costco display for Blu-ray that had all the speakers lumped together and placed behind the tv facing away from the listener. This is not Sony’s fault, but more about not being able to send some sort of “advertising police” into every retail location to enforce how the displays should be set up.

    It says a lot about the retailer and their attention to detail. If the store or department manager really understand their product lines, then they’d take more care to present things well.

  2. Indeed, the manufacturer goes to the trouble of designing and providing the display. Perhaps even the initial setup on the floor. The store staff have responsibility for its correct operation on a day-to-day basis. It seems simple enough.

    My frustration, aimed squarely at Fry’s, stems from the staff indifference. How many times have you gone into a store selling HDTVs only to find that they don’t have many (perhaps any) of the floor models displaying HD imagery? I’ve seen that a lot. Even when they have cable to all the TVs they won’t go to the trouble of ensuring that HD material is available and on view.

    Fry’s may also be the worst offender for this sort of thing. They sell on price. Period. I never buy major items there because I know I can’t count on them to know about their products. I’ll check their price, but purchase elsewhere, even if elsewhere costs a little more.

    I like the salesperson to know more than I do about something, if at all possible. It kinda makes you think that things like “The Sony Store” or “The Bose Store” can make sense if you care about your merchandising.

  3. At the Fry’s in Costa Mesa, CA, instead of hooking up the entire array of HDTVs to an HD DVD or Blu-ray source, they just played some standard DVD on it. Not even a high-def broadcast. That’s no way to shop for an HDTV at all, and it’s so obviously missing an opportunity to sell high-def players, movies and TVs.

    A few of the displays were hooked up to a demo disc that shows art objects. This might have been the only thing to do a couple of years ago, but with hundreds of movies on high-def discs, you’d think they have something much more interesting to present today.

    I’m sure it would be very expensive to operate a store full of expert sales staff, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that the supervisors or some sort of regional manager can make sure that at least the demos are standardized. Just a rule of thumb like, “when in doubt, hook it up to player XYZ and stick in this movie, or tune it to this channel.”

  4. Fry’s no-photographs policy is an old one. Back in 1995 an English friend of mine started taking pictures inside a Fry’s store and was immediately told to stop. Former Fry’s employees will tell you that everything in a Fry’s store is where it is for a reason. They think of their layout and presentation as part of their intellectual property.

    Fry’s started in Silicon Valley as a makeover for a failing supermarket. In the Valley, many of the customers know more about Fry’s products than even well-educated sales people could hope to know. So Fry’s traditionally has not educated their salespeople about their products.

    But they do one thing right: they have very liberal return policies. I choose Fry’s over the competition precisely because I can take the product back to home or office, play with it, and if it doesn’t do what I want, return it for a full refund with no arguments.

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