Source: William M at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons
The other day an article came across my desk.  Essentially it combined the notice of a retail grand opening with a help wanted posting.  With all the mystery engulfing even the near-term future of our domestic economy, it almost comes as a surprise when a company, especially a retailer, announces even modest expansion.
With all the bluster some politicians devote to hyping hope when it comes to jobs, it seems almost shocking when a company calmly comes out looking for considerable amounts of help by offering 600 jobs, jobs, jobs.  Yet that is what hhgregg is doing in South Florida.
Recently the company announced plans to open ten new locations as it invades a wide range of neighborhoods across three counties in South Florida.  Ten locations and six hundred jobs.  Take that recession.
Actually Indianapolis based hhgregg hasn’t let the recession keep it down as it has most of retailing.  During the recession, the company has initiated similar openings events in other markets far from its home base including the Washington DC metro area and West Central Florida.  Upon approaching each new market the now multi-regional retailer has entered with aplomb, taking over existing stores, often old Circuit City locations and creating an atmosphere unique to its own image.
Visiting my first hhgregg store at a soft opening in West Central Florida, I found sales people eager to do more than just sell.  While exhibiting professional sales manners, the sales personnel made it clear that they had eagerly bought into the company philosophy. They seemed to enjoy displaying product knowledge.  If customers had doubts that a product might not fully meet their needs the sales people easily smiled and noted the retailer’s easy return policy.  The customer’s primary responsibility was to return the product with its packaging in tact in new condition.  That’s right, there were no restocking fees.       
As many hhgreggs are located in proximity to well worn Best Buy stores, the message was clear.  We may not be as customer-centric but we are more customer-trusting than the nationally based competitor.
When I noted to an associate that I was aware that hhgregg salespeople were commissioned, one such salesman happily chimed in that hhgregg’s prices are competitive with the competition and they eagerly price match.  He then wondered where the money goes in the competitor’s scheme if commissioned personnel can offer the same if not better prices, plus he claimed, better and more knowledgeable service.
One of the new locations will be in a small strip virtually adjacent to the renowned, upscale Aventura Mall.  This is an easily trafficked, primo shopping area which has done well during the recession.
While hhgregg has done well as it eagerly invaded what often were territories previously dominated by Best Buy, South Florida is the home of one of the most admired regional CE retailers.  Visit a long distance friend or relative in South Florida and it is almost certain that you will eagerly be referred to BrandsMart USA at the mere mention of needing even a minor CE item such as a media card.  BrandsMart is famous for its bargain bins loaded with such small items at eye-catching prices.  Mention something more complex such as a camcorder or digital SLR and you will likely be ushered there as I was.  Locals seem to enjoy the store’s culture and the very knowledgeable staff, for a fun and profitable shopping experience.
As noted in an earlier Insight, Best Buy’s recent disappointing financials have forced it to reexamine many of its retailing strategies including restocking fees, which it is loathe to lose.  Companies like hhgregg and BrandsMart USA have essentially forced Best Buy’s hand.
That hhgregg, during difficult economic times, recognized real estate bargains in promising major retail markets is commendable.  That it has templated a plan to broadly and boldly enter these markets is more than noteworthy.  That it has done this during a recession is remarkable.  
For more information on the Discount & Specialty Retailers database click here.
Arthur Rosenberg, Senior Editor 

Arthur has worked at Chain Store Guide for 20 years. He received a B.A. degree from City College of New York and attained a master’s degree in electronic communications from Brooklyn College. Please contact him if you have any questions.