What a weird Spring we’re having in the Northeast. It can be 80+ degrees one day, only to be followed by two or three days of cold and rain. Such was the case last Thursday as we traveled to a pre-Grand Reopening event at Bob & Ron’s World Wide Stereo in Montgomeryville, PA. It was raining and in the low 50-degrees as we arrived for the early evening event, motivating us to turn up our collar as we exited our vehicle for a little extra protection from the cold and the rain.
But walking through the front door transported us to another world…
The moment we stepped through the front door, we were immediately enveloped in an inviting environment. Just inside the doorway, was a calm outdoor-like setting – enhanced by the soft tinkling of flowing water. For just a moment, the scene felt serene, as though we were on an outdoor patio…where’s my margarita? Upon further inspection, we discovered that the tinkling sound was water flowing over a flat-panel display, showing consumers an outdoor TV system. Nestled in the greenery were various landscape speakers, which at this moment were silent, but we can imagine are normally softly playing music (maybe Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville?).
As we turned in the doorway, we saw a large poster showing a blow-up of an obviously old black and white photo from the late 70s of three people standing in front of a store – this store – with signs in the window proclaiming “Grand Opening Sale.” We immediately recognized the younger versions of founders Bob Cole, Ron Rumer, and Bob’s wife Karen.
Guests Included Customers and Media
It was only at this point that we realized – having arrived early – the World Wide Stereo staff was busily finishing up preparations for this grand reopening event. Actually, there was quite a bit of hustle and bustle as a drink station was getting set up and displays were getting their final polish.
The company had invited several guests to this preview, mostly longtime customers of the company – and a few members of the media. A good crowd showed up for this preview – around 160 people or so walked through the new showroom design…maybe more.
A Complete Rebuild
The store was completely remodeled, Cole told us. And we’re not just talking a fresh coat of paint – almost three-quarters of the building was demolished and completely rebuilt. So in a way, it was a brand new store.
Cole proudly walked us around the store sharing his stories about the design decisions they had made. Our first impression was very favorable. One mistake we often see in retail stores selling technology is the impulse to overwhelm the consumer with stacks upon stacks of products surrounding them.
This type of technology overkill can intimidate consumers, often motivating them to exit the store without looking at any product close up. The team at World Wide Stereo was able to find the sweet spot between creating dynamic and exciting technology displays…while at the same time presenting them in comfortable home-style environments.
Literally, sections of the showroom utilized all of the accoutrements of your typical living room, with lamps and nick-knacks adding to the design. The store features specific lifestyle settings including a fully wired kitchen area, bathroom and shower area, multiple living room areas, as well as more traditional speaker rooms.
All About the Experience
“This design reflects the experience of a lifelong career in the business,” Cole told us. “There are literally miles of wire and tons of gear. But…,” Cole added, pausing for emphasis. “It’s not about the gear. It’s all about the experience.”
The store has three fully packed theaters, offering a variety of theater types. These different types of theaters included everything from a bright family type theater with sofa-style seating where you and your kids might watch the latest Pixar animated flick…to a fully dedicated, incredibly impressive dedicated theater they call their “Academy Award Theater” where your senses will be close to overload watching the latest superhero film.
There are also ample displays of turntables (“We sell a lot of turntables,” Cole noted) and stereo entertainment packages. Stereo, it seems, is making a comeback…at least according to the staff at World Wide.
Automation and Installation Display
In the center of the store is an impressive rack stuffed with McIntosh equipment. This attention-getting display has dual purposes. First, it gets your attention…it’s an impressive amount of American muscle. Second, it visually shows the company’s installation and automation chops. This stack, in the middle of the store, actually drives the Academy Award Theater at the back of the store – helping the customer get a sense of what World Wide can do for installations in their home. Also, the customer can walk around the back of the rack to see a very neatly detailed installation with cables grouped and professionally tied off. This undoubtedly leaves them with an unstated, but very powerful, positive impression.
“This entire facility is fully automated,” Cole justifiably boasted, explaining how they introduce customers to automation in a non-threatening manner by letting them see it in action. “Every display, every item is optimized. Headphones, for example, are driven by a McIntosh headphone amp…we don’t scrimp just because it’s only a headphone display. It’s the same with our in-wall speakers – we demonstrate them through a top McIntosh amp as well.”
More Like a Family Reunion
As the crowd began to grow, we felt more like we were at a family reunion than at a store opening. It is clear that World Wide has long-term relations with their customers and there was a sense of warmth as customers – friends really – came up to Bob and other members of the team to congratulate them on the new store.
One of the theater demonstration rooms, Cole called it the Studio, has ten full Dolby Atmos systems set up to demonstrate and compare. Thanks to logical layout and design, nothing felt particularly overwhelming. By grouping sections and displays, the store had an easy flow and it seemed as though there was always something neat to discover just around the next corner.
Take for example their mobile electronics display. Cole told us that they have developed a select number of car audio solutions based on the profile of the typical World Wide Stereo customer. Actually, they identified about three or four specific profiles of their clientele and created specific equipment packages to meet their needs. So even though the car audio display area has been scaled back from the previous layout, sales are expected to maintain their levels due to the targeted selection of systems that appeal to most of their customers.
Door Prizes Wow the Crowd
About half-way through the three-hour event, and after a large group of guests had arrived, Cole pulled tickets out of a hat and seemed to truly delight in handing out door prizes to the group. Some of those door prizes were quite valuable as they were all pulled from the company’s normal inventory.
After the drawings were complete, the World Wide Stereo staff conducted three seminars on various topics throughout the store. Cole himself conducted a seminar on theater design in their Academy Award Theater – so named because it contains a Stewart Filmscreen model that won an Academy award, and because it contains lighting that is designed to look like the awards themselves.
Cole’s presentation talked about how dedicated theaters can really deliver the full theater experience. And not just the pictures and sound…but more importantly, the emotion of the story. To make his point, he played a series of clips. We were struck by how Cole made no mention of gear…or specs (unless asked)…as we would have expected in some other lesser tech store.
Like Cole says, it’s all about the experience.
Experience it for yourself. Visit World Wide Stereo’s newly redesigned store at 754 Route 309 (Bethlehem Pike) in Montgomeryville, PA.
To learn more about World Wide Stereo, visit: www.worldwidestereo.com.