updated 10:50 pm EDT, Thu March 31, 2011
Sony Store LA opens with Apple influence
Sony said this week it would launch its first US store based on its new store template. Now just called the Sony Store, the shop in the Century City Mall in Los Angeles has a "new concept" with Apple-like bright, widely spaced areas instead of the dark spaces from Sony Style locations. The strategy includes a Premium Services area that duplicates the Genius Bar's technical help, though it goes beyond by offering in-home installs.
The layout also takes a cue by having fully functional demos of virtually everything on sale, including notebooks. As a general electronics maker, however, Sony has its own features. Photographers have demo subjects to test macros and other shots with the Alpha and NEX lines. Virtually every headphone set and TV is available to try, and an 'ultimate' home theater is set up in The Cube, an environment designed to isolate most of the outside sound and light and recreate conditions closer to a real den.
Much of the design, shaped by Klein Dytham architecture, was also meant to be changed on the fly whenever Sony introduces something new. It even includes a product not for sale, the RayModeler 3D display.
Sony is counting on a combination of Apple and Microsoft in-store lures to get customers into the stores for the opening weekend. Visitors in early days will get a new t-shirt, albeit only after they make a purchase; the first 102 to visit the store each day on the opening weekend will have a chance to win headphones, a notebook, or a TV. A more direct cue from Microsoft's strategy will have Natasha Bedingfield play in the store at 4PM on April 2. Other new Sony Stores and redesigns of existing areas are due to come later.
Although never mentioned by name, the new Sony retail layout is an attempt to make up for traffic lost to Apple retail stores. Especially in Japan, where the iPod overthrew the Walkman within just a few years, Apple's emphasis on more inviting stores with real hands-on opportunities and in-store help have been credited with attracting and keeping buyers. Sony Style locations have commonly been hands-off and until recently couldn't offer much help with repairs or non-sales advice.