Incredible Universe aims to vacuum the world

Incredible Universe aims to vacuum the world
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Welcome to the show! And get ready: Shopping for a vacuum has never been quite like this.

The assortment is huge. But then again, so are these “gigastores.” Each store is almost four acres, packed with more than 85,000 consumer electronics items and appliances. Shoppers are offered a tour guide to navigate the aisles.

The brand names are the tops in the vac business–Hoover, Eureka, Royal, Regina, Panasonic, Iona Appliances and Black & Decker. Pricing on popular models is competitive.

This retailer has modeled its service on the Walt Disney concept–customers are “guests,” the store is “the show” and sales associates are the “cast members.”

There’s entertainment, too–karaoke, large-screen TV shows, live performances, D.J. music, prizes and a fast-food restaurant for the popcorn.

It’s incredible here at Incredible Universe. And this fun shopping concept is producing more than just a hit show–it’s turning in big vacuum sales receipts.

Incredible Universe, a division of Tandy Corp., is one of the top retailers in floor care on a perstore basis; vacuums represent about 25 percent of the company’s small electrics sales, sources said.

“Vacuum cleaners are a very important part of our small applicance business,” said Rich Hollander, vice president and general manager. “As with every product line, our goal is to offer the largest selection at great prices–to give our guests a variety of choices and solutions for their individual needs.”

The retailer carries more than 50 models in all types of floor care products and more than 60 accessories.

Demand for vacuums prompted Incredible Universe to move its vacuum cleaners and accessories to a more visible location in the home appliance department, Hollander said.

“They do an enormous floor care business,” said Bruce Gold, president of White-Westing-house Floor Care, whose products are carried promotionally.

The company’s advertising and promotions for vacuums emphasize this selection. The retailer offers special promotions and values throughout the year.

Hands-on merchandising and an educated sales staff are producing sales, suppliers said.

See more: Manual vacuum cleaner

Employees are ready to help and they’re well trained. The noncommissioned sales representatives spend at least 10 percent of each work day learning about new products and technology.

“Of course, Incredible Universe creates a shopping experience and caters to the customer with salespeople on the floor,” says Mike Rawdon, Hoover’s national sales manager for central U.S. “They really try to make shopping a pleasure.”

Service goes a long way and keeps shoppers returning. An estimated 700,000 customers visit each store yearly and more than 70 percent are repeat customers, Tandy said.

“The cast members take care of the consumer,” says Nick Varankis, vice president of sales for Iona Appliance’s U.S. business. “It’s instilled in them.”

Incredible Universe performs especially well at upper-income demographic ranges, the company said. Customers are willing to pay more for features in vacuums, the retailer has found.

“We have found our guests are willing to pay more for added features, particularly when they are provided plain-English information about those features,” Hollander explained. “If they understand the product, added features are appealing.”

Merchandising is one of Incredible Universe’s strongest points, manufacturers said. Vac makers regularly demonstrate their products in the stores.

“They’re great at merchandising,” said David Moore, Southwest regional manager for Royal. “Everything’s hands-on. You can really test the products before you buy them.”

The retailer reported overall sales of $382 million last year at nine locations “We’re looking forward to the future growth of the retailer,” said Rawdon. “We know Hoover’s business will grow right along with them.”

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