Nationwide's independent appliance, furniture and electronics retailers are reloading their business models to incorporate custom home theater. But along the way, a number of obstacles have come out in the wash.&000;&000;
By Audrey Gray
Heraclitus, the hotshot philosopher in ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato eclipsed him, is credited with the idea that nothing endures but change. He'd get no arguments from Trey Brunson, the 35-year-old vice president of H & H Furniture, Appliances and Electronics in Brunswick, Ga. "When my grandfather started this store back in 1933, it was a gas station!" he laughs. "To say we've evolved would be an understatement!"
H & H serves a market of about 75,000 people in southeast Georgia, about an hour south of Savannah. Like so many independent, family-owned appliance and electronics stores, H & H once stocked its showroom with row after row of ranges, washers, televisions and audio equipment. Much of its business was cash-and-carry. "We were the typical electronics retailer, you know, with a room of 47 speakers in it and all this crap that no one ever looked at," says Brunson. "We decided at one point to make two little vignettes to show how this stuff could work. We didn't even know what 'vignettes' were, but we made a media room."
That simple but effective media room got so much attention that Brunson started re-evaluating his business model with more consideration for the interests of his customers.
"Builders were sending customers to us to buy their Sub-Zeros and other appliances," he says. "The wife and husband would come in. He'd look at a range for about 10 minutes and then lose interest and filter over and start looking at the big screen. It was almost like this natural synergistic move. We sort of fell into becoming, more and more, a provider of home theater and home media rooms."