February 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Online music for retailers—not just for music fans

Some chain retailers are entertaining shoppers with in-store music distributed over the web and controlled by headquarters.

When young people shop, they`re not necessarily looking for bargains or things they need. More often than not, they`re looking to be entertained--to feel good about being out on the town.

But of all the ways to entertain young adults, what can make the most sense in a retail store? Music is a natural choice, yet distributing it across a store chain can be costly and difficult to manage to the tastes of each store`s customer base.

But now retailers like the 650-store Spencer Gifts and women`s casual wear merchant Simply Fashions, with 230 locations, are entertaining shoppers with music distributed over the web.

"Music is a driving force in our customers` lifestyle, so we`re feeding them music to keep their interest," says Spencer Gifts promotion manager Mike Champion.

Spencer, based in Eggs Harbor, N.J., with stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, for years has played music over store speakers. But until recently, it faced the chore of distributing CDs to each store. And producing CDs with particular tracks of music and promotional messages--designed for, say, Valentine`s Day or spring break--required a lead time of eight weeks. "If I wanted something in the stores by Jan. 1, I had to have it in production by Nov. 1," Champion says.

Now, with a web-based music system from Trusonic Inc., Spencer can develop new music programs, including store promotional messages, and have them playing in each store within a day. Once Champion produces a new music track from a digital music library and loads it to a web server, the track automatically downloads to each store.

Spencer also uses the Trusonic system to program different music tracks for different groups of stores.

The web-based system also helps Spencer`s store clerks interact with customers, Champion adds. Because clerks can now read on a display terminal connected to the Trusonic system the names of the song and artist currently playing, they can inform customers about the music they`re listening to. "It`s another way to get our stores involved with our guests," he says.

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