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Jackson superstore making inroads into competitive market

CompUSA wants you to know: it`s a total solutions provider

CompUSA in Jackson is letting the public know it`s a total solutions provider. Otherwise, business is booming, said Randy Watenpuhl, general manager.

“We`re building a relationship with the Jackson community and working with a wide variety of customers,” Watenpuhl said. “We have a continuing effort to let the public know what we offer and what we do. Many people think we`re just a retailer, when in fact, we offer technical services, training, direct sales, and have a CompUSA integrated systems division.”

Even though sales figures could not be provided, Watenpuhl said the store is exceeding projections. With 156 locations throughout the U.S., company-wide sales totaled $5.29 billion for the 1998 fiscal year. By the end of August, the deal should be closed on 100 Computer City stores, which CompUSA is purchasing. There are no immediate plans for expansion in Mississippi, he said.

Most of CompUSA`s staff of 100 employees based in the 28,000 square-foot-store were hired locally, Watenpuhl said.

Most retail sales are home-based, while all direct sales are corporate-, government- or education-based, Watenpuhl said. A business center located inside the store manages the mail order business and caters to small business needs.

“Given today`s technology and the need for people to have it, our clients range from the largest of Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop shops,” he said. “We have made it our focus to devote more attention to small- and medium-sized businesses by helping them decide which computer system will fit their needs and assisting them in choosing the appropriate software. We can also aid them with problems such as Y2K.”

What`s hot are digital cameras, laptops, scanners and software games. Two new products – the iMac and the 450-megahertz Comp PC – have been generating a lot of attention, he said.

“Apple hasn`t had a product introduction like that in quite a while and the response has been incredible,” he said.

What`s not hot only becomes so because technology changes so fast, Watenpuhl said. “What was hot and cutting edge three to six months ago no longer has a large demand. Do customers want Windows 95 or Windows 98? Windows 95 seems like an older piece of merchandise and people want Windows 98.”

When Windows 98 debuted, more people stood in line for the promotion than for grand opening. “There were hundreds of people waiting to buy it,” he said.

“Now that the 450 megahertz is out, what does that say about a 266 megahertz or 400 megahertz machine? Technology keeps getting faster, and certain things are being done better.”

Watenpuhl compared CompUSA`s impact in the local computer market to Home Depot`s.

“When Home Depot moves into a market, the Ace Hardwares and mom-and-pops still do well because they have their niche market,” he said. “It`s difficult to be everything to everybody. There are plenty of smaller (computer) businesses that have a niche and will continue to thrive.”

About Lynne W. Jeter

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