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Walmart, Target stores get consumer-electronics makeovers

Consumer Reports News: May 20, 2010 10:40 AM

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Look out, Best Buy. Both Walmart and Target are gunning for your customers with spruced-up consumer electronics departments and broader assortments of step-up products, including LCD TVs with LED backlights and Internet access, and more smart phones.

Last week, Walmart said it's upgrading the Home Entertainment departments both online and in retail stores, adding LCD TVs with LED backlights and Internet streaming, and expanding its assortment of web-capable Blu-ray players that can access online content from partners such as Netflix, Pandora and Vudu (the latter now owned by Walmart).

As part of its TV effort, Walmart is creating “New Technology” HDTV Centers, which will be rolled out in 1,200 stores nationwide to showcase new super-slim LED TVs from popular brands like Samsung, Sony, Vizio, and most recently, LG.

The retailer is also creating a dedicated wireless area with an expanded assortment of smart phones and wireless networking products, plus a dedicated area for "no contract" mobile broadband services.

Target, which has steadily been expanding its selection of CE products over the past 18 months, is now focusing on three core categories—TVs, videogames, and digital imaging— as part of its electronics makeover.

To help highlight TVs and make side-by-side comparisons easier for customers, Target is creating new TV merchandising walls in its stores. The chain is now carrying larger sets, LCD models with LED-backlit LCD TVs, and Internet-enabled sets with access to online content.

The videogame section will now be a third larger than previously, and will feature a new open layout that includes demo stations where players can test out new titles. The new digital imaging section will include digital SLRs for the first time.

Target recently became the first brick-and-mortar retailer to carry Amazon's Kindle ebook reader, which is currently available at 104 Target stores. All Target stores will have the Kindle by June 6, the chain says.

—James K. Willcox

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