Christmas shopping starts in August for retailers

Labour Day is two weeks away, but dealers at RadioShack Canada‘s Annual Consumer Technology Showcase Monday were already focused on Christmas.

“You’ve got to make your buying decisions for the fourth quarter (now),” said Mark Boerkamp, owner of REM RadioShack in Simcoe, Ont. “You’ve only got one crack because the stuff comes from overseas”

The “stuff” in question included everything from satellite television systems to puck feeders for hockey-playing youngsters, from portable cell-phone power bars to electronic bible software for personal digital assistants (PDAs).

“The bible is certainly one of the best sellers,” RadioShack merchandising director Shane Garcia said of the PDA Bible to Go software, which retails for $19.99.

While many products on display at the third and final day of the showcase are already available through RadioShack stores on the company’s Web site, some vendors were using the showcase to display products that will not ship until the busy fall shopping season.

Intel Corp. showcased a couple of items from its Intel Play portfolio. The QX3 Plus Computer Microscope allows kids to take pictures of objects, augment them with visual and audio effects and place them in a time-lapse movie. With the Digital Movie Creator, future Fellinis can record and edit their own films with special effects and stop-motion animation. Both products are expected to have a late fall release and a $169 price tag.

Intel’s display also featured its Wireless Series, which includes a wireless keyboard, mouse and bay station. Boerkamp said he expects the series, which has been available since last year, to be a big hit for Christmas. A package including all three components retails for $149, while the bay station and mouse together cost $69.

Other products, Boerkamp was eager to stock included the PlayStation 2 from Sony Corp., which he said will drive traffic to his store, and the Power Shoot N’ Score hockey toy. Boerkamp said he didn’t order enough of the puck-feeder toy last year.

“They just went boom out of my store,” he said.

Boerkamp was also high on the large supply of mobile phone accessories on offer at the convention, particularly the hands-free kits.

“Everybody is going to have hands-free,” he said, referring to increasing government support for outlawing the use of hand-held phones while driving.

RadioShack’s mobile phone partner, Rogers AT&T Wireless was on Monday touting the GSM/GPRS wireless network it expects to role out to 83 per cent of the country by the end of 2001.

Microsoft Corp. had on display its upcoming Windows XP operating system as well as a keyboard designed specifically for the new OS. The Office Keyboard, scheduled to ship around the beginning of September, features one-touch keyboard access to virtually every computing function as well as applications like Word and Excel.

“It’s got hot keys to everything. Cut, copy, paste, and you can flip applications back and forth,” said Microsoft sales ad education representative Carole Plaine. The keyboard will retail for US$99.95.

Anticipating a large demand for XP, Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. has adjusted its security software for more fluid interaction with Microsoft’s new OS.

“Microsoft wants the 15-second boost time,” said Symantec national account manager Greg Weeks.

Symantec is also offering a $30 rebate on Norton System Works and Internet Security with the purchase of Windows XP.

Boerkamp said quality and value are the first things he looks for when choosing products to order for his store. He also said it was important to be able to offer customers a “good, better and best” scenario for products.

“Excitement is part of it,” added Garcia, who handles the ordering of computer and audio video products for RadioShack’s corporate stores (about half the total 880 outlets). “Accessories are also a big thing. If you buy a digital camera, we make sure all the parts are available.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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