A store-on-wheels, dubbed the Escape Mobile, is proving a potent sales weapon for Queensland's fastest-growing computer retailing chain, Software Today.
Towed between PC shows and community events by its own prime mover, the 16m-long portable shopfront is a miniaturised version of Software Today's permanent outlets.
The company's formula calls for large, inviting stores crammed with a full range of games and educational software aimed at family shoppers plus productivity packages for the business browser.
Sited in key shopping centre locales for easy access, they feature warm colours, bright lights, play-it-yourself games machines and non-aggressive salespeople.
Instead of jive-talking juniors, the staff leans towards experienced sales personnel who are encouraged to offer a friendly welcome instead of a hard sell. The atmosphere deliberately pushes the theme that both shopping for software and using it should be fun, says Software Today general manager Paul Flory.
It seems to be working. Since taking over its first outlet last September, Software Today has been opening an average of one new store a month, mainly in the Brisbane metropolitan area. It now boasts 70 employees in 10 locations with plans for 16 stores by December, of which four will be in North Queensland.
Software Today is the retail arm of The Foundation Group, whose owner and managing director, Geoff Dexter, shuns publicity, according to Flory.
The group is about to branch into hardware with the June 1 launch of a family of offerings by its new PC manufacturing arm, OK Technologies. The Velocity family will feature a trio of systems starting with a $2500 home PC and going up to $8000 business machines.
They will be offered to VARs and other dealers around Australia as "very reliable, cost effective quality machines", Flory said.
The machines will carry two-year warranties which will cut through the normal warranty routine of return, test and ship by offering customers on-the-spot replacements for faulty components, Flory said.
The market for the new machines will be buyers on their second or third machines who have been disappointed in their previous purchases and are willing to pay a bit more for peace of mind, he said.