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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

New Web strategy for CompUSA

The computer retailing giant is reworking its Net strategy once again by combining its online and retail sales efforts and quietly closing Cozone.com.

CompUSA is reworking its Net strategy again by combining its online and retail sales efforts and quietly closing Cozone.com.

The struggling computer retailer announced plans today to use its well-known brand name to enhance sales online and offer Net shoppers greater convenience through its retail outlets nationwide.

The Dallas-based company launched Cozone.com last October as part of a bid to double its visitors and help reverse the company's losses. At the time, its CompUSANet.com subsidiary was renamed, and the company planned to target families and small businesses online. But early this year, the company said Cozone.com sales were off their mark and that it was reconsidering the unit's role.

"It appears they're doing today what they should have done from the beginning, which was to leverage their brand and leverage their presence in all their retail locations," said David Goldstein, president of Channel Marketing Corp.

The company apparently is folding its online unit into a more recognizable Web site address under the company's name. Visitors to the Cozone.com site will find a note that reads: "Thank you for visiting Cozone.com. In order to continue and improve the quality service our customers demand, our site has recently been integrated with our parent company, CompUSA."

The company incurred significant losses while building the Cozone.com brand. In the second quarter of 2000, CompUSA said restructuring had boosted gross margins but left a net loss of $2 million, or 2 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with a profit of $12.9 million, or 14 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

"It seems apparent that over the last eight to 12 months that the best retail sites are those closely linked to their retail outlets. CompUSA wasn't leveraging their brand name to the Web," said Steve Baker, director of analysis for research firm PC Data.

Items bought through CompUSA online can now be returned at any of the company's retail outlets across the country. Customers can also find online shopping guides to help with their purchase. If shoppers want to buy off-price products, they can now find bargains in an outlet store and auction area online.

"Our new Internet strategy offers the ideal combination of 'bricks and clicks' by empowering consumers to gather information and make purchases in whatever combination of retail and online they prefer," said James. F. Halpin, president and chief executive of CompUSA.

Customers can now search online for CompUSA's latest advertised specials or receive the ads via email. In addition, the site lets shoppers check if a product is available in their area and check on the status of a repair or maintenance service order at any CompUSA store.

In the coming months, CompUSA plans to add more services online, such as all-hours technical support, class registration, product comparisons and online ordering for in-store pickup.