Comcast, Retailer Eye Second 'Connect'

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Having tested the retail waters before Christmas with a store called “Connect,” Comcast and Circuit City are moving toward opening a second shop in the Boston area.

“It's a very touchy-feely, hands-on, white-glove experience,” said Comcast vice president of retail Bob Faught. “What you get at the Connect store is a high degree of service and an answer to any question you have on any service.”

The first store, a 2,200 square-foot outlet in the Boston suburb of Medford, Mass., opened in mid-December.

“Comcast and Circuit City did team up to provide not only Comcast Triple Play [voice, video and Internet] services, but also to feature an assortment of high-end products,” said Circuit City senior public-relations representative Jackie Foreman.

Branded as “a trial store,” Connect offers hard goods found at Circuit City, such as high-definition television sets, MP3 players, laptop computers, iPods, digital cameras, gaming equipment and routers — plus Comcast services exclusively.

Connect is the only retail partnership offering Comcast broadband services exclusively.

Neither company would disclose sales figures or revenue splits, but a larger store is now in the works, slated for another location in the Boston market sometime this spring.

“We will evaluate the experiment to determine future plans,” Foreman said.

The major push for Comcast: its voice, video and high-speed Internet bundle. Connect has been offering the triple-play package for $99 per month, or $33 per product.

“We're still experimenting with these stores,” said Faught. “And we really welcome people to browse and see how HD works, to understand the difference between digital and analog.”

The higher level of customer service has become critical, according to the Comcast executive, because with so many technology and product options now available, there's a significant shortage of knowledge on how to integrate them.

“We're probably the largest [multiple-system operator] dealing in the retail space,” Faught said.

Comcast has offerings in nearly 700 Wal-Mart, 326 Best Buy, 305 Circuit City, 117 Comp USA and 2,200 RadioShack stores, among others.

Besides rolling out phone service last summer through Wal-Mart “Connection Centers,” Comcast also expects to offer Comcast Digital Voice through the Connect stores, Faught said.

“We're on the brick-and-mortar side as well as what we call the e-tail type of accounts,” he said, citing computer maker Dell as a steady partner and a recent deal to market through Internet retailer Amazon.com.

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