Circuit City Plugs Into E-Commerce

Already established online with an informational Web site about its thousands of electronic, computer and appliance items, superstore chain Circuit City (NYSE: CC) has finally decided to take the next logical step…Sell its products online.

The Richmond, Virginia-based company announced Tuesday that it would be adding e-commerce capabilities to its existing Web site by July, when it will introduce 700 brand-name products for online sale. By the time the 1999 Christmas shopping season rolls around, Circuit City plans to have thousands of items for sale on the Web.

“We intend to seamlessly integrate our existing store offer with the Web shopping offer,” said Circuit City President, Alan McCollough. “When we launch our E-Superstore, customers can use the site to gather product information prior to their Circuit City store visit or purchase merchandise directly from the site.”

McCollough stressed the symbiosis between the new online venture and Circuit City’s brick-and-mortar operation, saying that “big ticket purchase” consumers like to pick up their items directly from a store, rather than have it shipped.

The company said it will offer express pick-up of items purchased online at its physical store locations. Online shoppers that opt to pick up their items themselves, rather than have them shipped to them, will pay a lower price. In addition, Customers will be able to exchange or return items bought online at any of Circuit City’s 546 stores nationwide.

Jumping On The Bandwagon

For Circuit City, the move to e-commerce seemed inevitable. Consumer electronics are one of the best selling items on the Web. One of the nation’s largest electronics and computer retailers – with annual sales of $9.3 billion (US$) – the company was rather slow in shifting its online capabilities from purely informational to commerce.

Circuit City will be selling the usual range of computers, CD players, digital televisions, stereos and the like. It says it intends to add personal computer build-to-order options – a feature that it offers in its retail outlets – and will eventually sell washers, dryers, refrigerators and satellite dishes.

Founded in 1949 in Richmond as the WARDS Company, Circuit City has become one of the industry’s leading retailers. In addition to operating its 546 superstores, the company has two consumer electronics-only stores and 46-mall-based Circuit City Express stores.

The company also runs a retail automobile chain called CarMax (NYSE: KMX), a wholly-owned subsidiary that booked sales of $485 million in the first quarter of 1999.

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