Abt: Style Stars At High End
October 20, 1997
MORTON GROVE, ILLIts not so much a case of the rich getting better, and bigger. Abt Electronics and Appliance here, something of an institution in the Chicago area, has bolstered its already strong enlargement.
"there are a lot more kitchen vignettes now, "explained Bob Abt, president. "We present it in the right manner. I think the high-end business is expanding faster than the overall business."
Abt (the store) has "been around for 60 years, so they trust us. Were into a broad spectrum" from value brands to premium lines. The recent addition pushed the showroom from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, and the total form 80,000 to 130,000 square feet.
In the high end, it carries Sub-Zero, Miele, Gaggenaunumerous European labels and American names as well with snob appeal. " Theres almost nothing we dont have, " said Abt, including the likes of Elan and other exotic lines.
"The perception of the brand is important," he continued. "People think of the European lines. They seem to want to impress their friendshow much they can spend.:
Even upscale names such as Kitchen Aid are performing better in his estimation. Amana also has potential for growth under its new management.
The background to this success in the uppermost niche is of course the strength of the economy. Consumers are willing to spend money on major appliances.
Nevertheless, said Abt, "theres a lot of competition at retail, price competition. Theres probably as much or more at the high end because people have the time to run around from store to store and shop. If your refrigerator breaks, you need it right away." But its the opposite with a considered, deliberate purchase.
In the niche, style is if anything more significant than ever as a primary selling tool.
"Features are important, but if it doesnt look right, they are not going to buy it," he observed.
Among features that are demanded, Abt included convection for cooking and quiet operation for washing.
In addition to its kitchen vignettes, the store built a high-end home-theater room about three years ago, complete with a $50,000 television system. Its one more image-building element to make consumers aware Abt is an important player at the high end. To the dealers benefit, theres a continuing sense that chain stores are failing to do a proper job in the service area in this niche.
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