Adelphia Communications Corp. opened its first full-scale mall-based retail store last week in Niagara County, N.Y., the first of four the MSO plans to have running by mid-September. Others are set to open soon in Buffalo, N.Y., and Erie and Scranton, Pa.
The retail launches follow the successful tests of retail kiosks at malls across Adelphia markets, as well as a 1,200-square-foot store within the HSBC Arena, the Buffalo-based sports stadium Adelphia owns.
At the arena-based store, as well as at the new mall-based stores, Adelphia demonstrates its "Power Link" high-speed data service, as well as digital cable, long-distance telephone and paging services.
Each time an event is hosted at the arena, Adelphia makes 25 to 30 new sales at the on-site store, Great Lakes regional vice president of sales and marketing John Cimperman said.
"The products we sell today are much more sophisticated" than cable once was, he added, "and they need to be experienced."
In its western New York stores, Adelphia will also sell Buffalo Sabres National Hockey League tickets and merchandise.
Shoppers will be able to self-install their digital-cable boxes, although Adelphia will continue to lease them, rather than sell them. Cable modems should be available for sale by the fourth quarter.
The mall-based stores will measure 800 to 1,500 square feet and will be branded "Adelphia." Each is in a high-traffic shopping center within a rebuilt Adelphia footprint and wired for cable.
Mall-management companies welcomed the Adelphia concept eagerly, Cimperman said, especially when they heard about the operator's plans to build traffic by inviting characters from Nickelodeon, Disney Channel or its sports properties for promotional events.
Adelphia will use the new stores to help update its image in the eyes of consumers. Cimperman said he wants the MSO to be perceived as a full-service, high-tech entertainment company, and not just a utility.
The retail stores are expected to produce a profit for Adelphia well within a year, he said, noting that the mall-based kiosks paid for themselves within three months.
The MSO will staff its stores with a combination of internal employees and new hires with retail experience.
Cable operators are testing various retail strategies. The most aggressive to date has been Cablevision Systems Corp., which bought regional New York consumer-electronics chain The Wiz several years ago.
In St. George, Utah, Charter Communications Inc. set up a consumer display area for its digital-cable service in a local furniture and electronics store, Rocky Mountain group vice president of operations Dan Ryan said.
The store gets free digital cable to help demonstrate its wall of TV sets, and the MSO gets a display that reads, "Powered by Charter Digital."