The “Sony Style” is changing. According to a report from TWICE, the company closed 11 of its retail stores last month. Perhaps more interesting is that the remaining stores will be renamed from “Sony Style” to “Sony Factory Outlet.”
The closings seem perfectly reasonable. The last few years have been difficult ones for retail stores, and it makes sense that a few of the locations that seemed like a good choice initially have turned out to be less than optimal. Other store closings — consumer electronics and otherwise — have drastically altered the landscape of many malls and shopping centers around the country.
The surprise for me is the shift to “Factory Outlet.” I know Americans love a good bargain, but is this the image that Sony wants? I have seen the high-end Bose stores in some outlet complexes, but those have puzzled me too. Sony used to have the reputation of a top-end brand. You could get a Sony, or you could settle for something less. (The Sony Trinitron CRT televisions and computer monitors were prime examples of this top shelf status.)
Now you find Sony HDTVs in Walmart. I understand the need to go where the shoppers are, but I always felt that this deal raised Walmart’s status at the expense of Sony’s. So the decision to create “Factory Outlet” stores sends the wrong signal. It puts Sony in the same bargain basement boat as the clothing retailers who set up outlets to move their overstocked and discontinued products. It seems to me that Sony is headed in the wrong direction with their new retail strategy.