December 10, 2008, 12:00 AM

CompUSA integrates online and retail shopping experience

CompUSA is making digital data available at the product display level in its retail stores to bring more detailed information via CompUSA.com directly to shoppers.

CompUSA is making digital data available at the product level in its retail stores to bring more detailed information via CompUSA.com directly to shoppers. Dubbed “Retail 2.0,” the strategy makes more product data accessible, and faster than store sales staff can provide it, Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of CompUSA parent Systemax Inc.’s technology products segment, told analysts in a recent earnings call.

Retail 2.0 has been implemented in the CompUSA Dadeland store in Florida and is slated for the rest of the company’s stores over the next eight to 12 months, Fiorentino says. “Retail 2.0 enhances the customer experience by marrying what they love best about researching our products online with the opportunity to see our products and talk to knowledgeable staff in the store environment,” he says. “While we cannot predict what will happen to consumer and information technology spending in the coming months, we are optimistic about our market position and the opportunities we have created for long-term growth.”

The new system mean shoppers can use computer kiosks placed at the end of every store aisle to immediately access detailed information on a particular product and its operations, capabilities, specifications, brand value and customer reviews. All products are listed online, so shoppers can tap into details about the products they are physically touching in the store, Fiorentino told analysts.

Benefits expected from the Retail 2.0 initiative include some cost savings from time saved on in-store product education, but also in improving shoppers’ buying experience and satisfaction, Fiorentino said. That in turn is expected to generate increased loyalty and lower product returns. The new store/online layout offers the potential for other revenue generating opportunities including advertising and cross-selling of complementary products, he says.

Fiorentino also noted that traffic on the Systemax e-commerce businesses-CompUSA.com and TigerDirect.com-grew in the third quarter by 9% vs. the third quarter of 2007. CompUSA.com has been upgraded with improved content and a more attractive layout, he said. Visits per week in Q3 topped 926,000, a 17% increase from the second quarter of 2008.

Systemax purchased CompUSA’s assets in January for a total of $30.6 million. The breakdown was $18.9 million for the e-commerce business and $11.7 million for 16 stores. Systemax operates 29 CompUSA and Tiger Direct stores.

CompUSA recorded combined web and retail sales of $63 million for the third quarter of 2008, up by 7.7%, or $4.9 million from $58.1 million in the previous quarter. Combined web and retail sales were $139.4 million for the first nine months of 2008.

Systemax, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, reported net sales for the third quarter increased by 7.6%, or $52.2 million, to $739.5 million, compared with $687.3 million in the Q3 of 2007. Third quarter 2008 net income declined 36.1% to $11.3 million, compared with $17.6 million in the same period last year.

Net sales for the first nine months of 2008 increased 10.4% to $2.2 billion, compared with $2 billion in the same period of 2007. Net income decreased to $42.9 million, compared with $45.3 million in the prior year period.

Systemax sells personal computers, computer supplies and accessories, consumer electronics and industrial products through branded e-commerce sites, direct mail catalogs, relationship marketers and retail stores in North America and Europe. Other brands include Misco and Global Industrial. It also manufactures and sells PCs under the Systemax and Ultra brands and develops and markets ProfitCenter Software, a web-based, on-demand application for multi-channel direct marketing companies.

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