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The winds of change - PC Retail

The winds of change

The first stage of DSGi boss John Browett?s drastic overhaul of PC World, Currys and Currys.digital stores is well and truly underway, with refitted store layouts, new branded and educational areas, and a renewed staff training push. Andrew Wooden discusses the changes with the retailer?
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How are the new store layouts different and what is this designed to achieve?
Everything is designed so that PC World becomes the destination store for computing, new technology, digital products and service with the Tech Guys.

What you'd see in the store as a customer would be a grid layout, as opposed to the old herring bone, so when you walk in you will immediately have clear line of sight right to the other end of the store.

We also have much better clarity with the signage and the look of the stores. We want to make it easier for our customers to shop. Even though we've decluttered it, and it will seem a lot easier to negotiate, you'll have a much bigger range of products. So there's more space and, conversely, more product.

There's more ability to interact with products as well, with the waist-high play-tables intended to allow customers to 'touch and feel' far more products than they would have in the former layout.

There will also be an area which we're still working on which will be to explain and sell everything to do with convergence. It would be for consumers to understand how they can play music in their kitchen, how to play discs through a PlayStation 3, how to view a family photo album on a 42-inch plasma; it will cover everything to do with convergent technology.

The stores will also have a much larger range of laptops, but also a lot of higher-end products.

We will remain a place where you can get value products, but at the same time – because we're providing a much bigger range – you will see a good skew towards some higher-end products. I was in a one PC World a couple of weeks ago in Brentford, for example, where you could see things like £2,000 Canon SLRs for sale.

We will also have lots more opportunities for branded areas. We've already done it successfully with Apple, and you'll see many more opportunities for other firms, such as Dell to come in and really stamp their mark on the new stores.

It's not just a physical change either, there's a huge amount of work going into retraining our store teams. We had a successful selling model in Scandinavia, which we've rebranded in the UK as 'Five', which is all about focusing on engaging with and understanding the customer, rather than hard selling.

That will take a while and we don't know what the clear results will be. All we can say so far is that our colleagues are very happy and the customer feedback has been very positive.

You mentioned increasing the space for laptops. Does that mean you will be reducing space allocated to desktops?

Not significantly, no. There are a number of small changes as how much we tweak up and down.

Would you say it's a pre-emptive move to counter Best Buy when the first stores start emerging here?

If you look back at your timeline, John Browett joined last December, nine months ago, and there was some very extensive customer research already underway, and then we announced our transformation plan in May. It was around then that Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy made their announcement. Clearly our thinking was very advanced.

Of course we'll anticipate some competition from Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy when they come in. But at the same time we're busy reacting to what customers want and what we believe will continue to grow PC World rather than reacting to what they're doing.

Which Currys and Currys.digital stores have been rebranded so far?

By Christmas we will have a total of ten stores, if you count Currys and Currys.digital together. So far there are two – the Chelmsford Currys.digital store, which has been reformatted and the Swindon PC World store, which is the first superstore. Alongside that, you've got our first really huge store under the Currys branding.

We haven't got the final name yet, but it's going to be off junction nine of the M6 in Birmingham, replacing an existing very large Currys store. So there's essentially four new formats here – PC World, Currys.digital, Currys and a huge trial hypermarket. All these will emerge before Xmas.

Will you be ramping up marketing in line with the rebrand and refit?
As we refit the stores, you'll see a new form of marketing built into that with some easier, friendlier signage and a new facias in PC World. That's reflected in Currys and Currys.digital as well. The TV advertising will continue to evolve as well.

Currys.digital stores have dropped much of their white goods, kitchen products, etc, leaving them with a product base looking very similar to PC World. Could the two entities end up working closer together in the future?

Currys.digital stores will be dropping white goods, but the Currys stores will continue to stock them. What we found with Currys.digital stores on the High Street was that what our customers wanted, and what was easier to provide, was portable technology.

Laptops feature very strongly in Currys.digital, but cameras, sat navs, music and imaging etc, do too. PC World and Currys.digital won't necessarily be working closer together. In terms of how we run it in our retail support centre – what we call our head office – John Browett has got us working together closer as a group of brands, for example, with how we manage our buying and logistics.

But in terms of the stores, sometimes they have the same customer base, but more often than not, they serve some very different purposes and some very different customer bases.

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