JB and WOW gearing up for Christmas at new stores

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Home entertainment retail specialists JB Hi-Fi and WOW Sight & Sound are both celebrating first Christmases in recently opened stores. Unlike some rival retailers, who chose not to expand during the economic uncertainty, both these groups grew during 2009, and are now fully engrossed in Christmas season.

“WOW is getting ready for Christmas, we’re in Christmas mode,” said director of retail Con Nicolas. “We’ve just opened Oxley and Canberra, that brings us up to 15 stores, so for us now focus is Christmas. There won’t be any other stores opening this side of Christmas, it’s about getting the stores prepared, getting in the in-house merchandising up to speed.”

Nicolas said that both the Oxley and Canberra stores had started trading strongly. WOW’s parent company, the SSI Group, owns the properties these stores are located at, which means that overheads can be kept lower than through leasing.

WOW Sight & Sound’s expansion, however, is dwarfed by JB Hi-Fi. Seemingly oblivious to the global financial crisis, JB Hi-Fi has opened a raft of new stores during calendar 2009, with a number of these stores in the new small format.

“We opened one last week in downtown Brisbane, we opened one in World’s Square in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, we opened one in Townsville, we opened in Belrose in Sydney,” said JB Hi-Fi CEO Richard Uechtritz.

Uechtritz said the new store in Albury had been delayed for unspecified reasons, but otherwise his timetable of store openings was on track. Dispute this delay, Uechtritz reported that this was the most expansive 6-month period on JB’s history.

“We’ll have opened 15 in the first half of the [2010 financial] year, which is our biggest store opening program in any given six month period since we started.”

As for the goods in demand this Christmas, both Uechtritz and Nicolas said that home entertainment, especially televisions, would be prominent, with consumers taking advantage of the myriad of offers and promotions.

“It’s going to be a supplier bonus/stimulus package [Christmas],” said Nicolas. “With all the bonuses the suppliers are offering at the moment… you’ve got Panasonic offering their bonus, you’ve got LG, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, all the big brands.”

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