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Rival discounters Target, Walmart play up electronics

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Rivals Target Corp. and Walmart are going head to head with enhanced electronics departments offering expanded arrays of products.

Target said it's "reinventing" its consumer electronics department in stores nationwide with a new open layout and more products, notably a bigger video game section. Walmart, meanwhile, unveiled a bundle of new home entertainment, wireless and mobile products along with price rollbacks and other savings.

NEW YORK — As consumer spending gradually warms, rivals Target Corp. and Walmart are going head to head with enhanced electronics departments offering expanded arrays of products.

As consumer spending gradually warms, rivals Target Corp. and Walmart are going head to head with enhanced electronics departments offering expanded arrays of products.

Target on Monday said it’s "reinventing" its consumer electronics department in stores nationwide with a new open layout designed to provide a more convenient and enjoyable shopping experience, as well as ensure that customers can easily access the information and products they want.

And late last week, Walmart announced a bundle of new home entertainment, wireless and mobile technology products for its electronics department along with price rollbacks and other savings.

Minneapolis-based Target plans to finish the rollout of the new electronics layout, which kicked off last month, by June.

As part of the transformation, the video game section is being expanded by 30% and will feature a large, open and "guest friendly" format that will include new product-accessible fixtures organized by platform and game genres, the discount retailer said.

A majority of stores also will have video game Learning Centers and Trial Stations. The new Learning Centers will feature a 40-inch high-definition touch screen where customers can read reviews, learn about game features, sort by ESRB ratings, view in-store price and inventory, receive recommendations on best-sellers, or page a store associate for assistance. The Trial Stations will enable customers to try out the latest titles before they buy.

"Target is committed to creating an intuitive and easy shopping experience for our guests," Mark Schindele, senior vice president at Target, said in a statement. "The electronics and video game reinvention was designed with the wants and needs of our guests as our top priority. They’ve asked for additional product diversity and better access to games and information, and our new layout offers them just that."

In addition, Target said it’s making improvements and additions in the television, camera and camcorder sections of the electronics department that will add to and enhance its current product offerings plus facilitate product selection for shoppers.

According to the retailer, an improved TV wall will offer a more realistic in-home presentation and a better way for guests to compare picture quality across brands. Clear signage highlighting product features is being integrated within the overall display, and key accessories can be found at the base of the TV wall so customers can easily find everything they need for their new purchase.

Target added that it’s also expanding its selection of larger screen sizes and introducing new products such as super-slim LED TVs and Internet-capable TVs that enable users to play videos on-demand and surf the Web.

New product also are being introduced to Target’s camera selection, which is being expanded to include high-performance digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras at affordable price points. The SLR cameras will be grouped with clear signage highlighting the key product features, the company said.

Last month, Target announced plans to carry the popular Kindle handheld reader from, making it the only brick-and-mortar retailer to sell the product. Target said the Kindle is currently available at 104 of its stores and will be rolling out chainwide on June 6.

Walmart, meanwhile, launched its consumer electronics blitz this month, focusing on home entertainment and high-tech devices geared for the "connected life."

"Starting this month, customers will discover more high-quality, Internet-ready home entertainment products, new wireless technologies and new mobile devices in stores and online that offer simple, affordable solutions for creating a more connected life," commented Gary Severson, senior vice president of home eEntertainment for Walmart U.S.

"We also continue to design a well-defined shopping experience in entertainment that enables customers to find what they need quickly, learn about new technology, compare prices among top brands and every day find amazing value," Severson stated. "Our commitment to the best price and surprising value is always a top priority."

New home entertainment offerings include a 50% increase in the assortment of Internet content-streaming Blu-ray players from brands such as LG, Vizio, Samsung and Sony, hosting online-accessi content from Vudu, Netflix, Pandora and more. Walmart, too, is expanding its offering of Internet-capable HDTVs and will create a "New Technology" HDTV Center, rolling out to 1,200 stores, to showcase new ultra-thin backlit and edge-lit LED TVs from popular brands like LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio.

With consumers’ rising acceptance of Blu-ray technology, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said its stores now feature dedicated Blu-ray offers and properties in special displays in a redesigned movie department, rolling out to all stores this summer, and will introduce more new movie values. Also, Walmart’s assortment of sound bar home theater systems from brands such as Vizio and Samsung are now arriving at more than 2,000 stores, according to the discount store giant. And nearly all Walmart stores will see an increase in 42-inch HDTV sizes, while more than half will see increases in assortment of 55-inch HDTVs.

Walmart said its selection of wireless networking products, now a dedicated category at the chain, will be expanded as well with new, user-friendly products like Valet and popular Belkin and Netgear items, with accessories, to help more customers affordably create multiple wireless connections in the home.

And to help customers connect "on the go," Walmart said it plans to deploy a dedicated area for pay-as-you-go, no-contract mobile broadband products, introducing more savings for notebook and netbook users needing Web access from anywhere. New products from Verizon, Cricket and Virgin, and exclusive product from AT&T, arrived in Walmart stores this past weekend.

Walmart, too, announced with Sprint the arrival of Common Cents, a new pay-as-you-go wireless solution that offers 7-cent minutes that round down and 7-cent text messages. The service began rolling out exclusively to 700 Walmart stores on May 15.

Also on the mobile front, Walmart continues to expand its selection in post-paid cellular with dedicated wireless centers and associates to help customers compare, select and activate a plan in minutes. The retailer said it has expand its smartphone assortment by roughly 60% from last May, and upcoming products include Sprint’s HTC EVOTM 4G phone, slated to be available at Walmart in a few weeks.

Walmart said it also has amplified its focus on price rollbacks this spring, lowering prices of favorite products and helping customers live better with more places to learn about savings and electronics choices.

The retailer plans to roll out an HDTV Savings Center to more than 1,200 stores, where customers will see a dedicated space for special buys and the latest rollbacks on HDTVs. A new online tool called BillShrink allows customers to see if they are paying too much or how they can pay less in cellular wireless based on their personal usage.

Examples of rollbacks and special values include over $100 savings on LG 47-inch ($1,568) and Sony 52-inch ($2,058) LED TVs, $50 savings on the Sony E-Reader ($148), $20 savings on the Magnavox Blu-ray Disc Player ($78) and 20% savings on the Vizio High Definition Sound Bar ($98).


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