WIZ SIGNS SPORTS STARS TO HELP BEAT BACK RETAIL RIVALS: NEW YORK AREA SEES BATTLE IN ELECTRONICS STORES

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With an electronics store war looming in the Northeast, the New York market is bracing itself as Nobody Beats the Wiz this week modifies its branding effort with a new TV spot featuring an eclectic mix of sports celebrities.

The spot, from Bozell Worldwide's Bozell Retail, New York, shows sports stars such as Olym-pic swimmer Janet Evans, and National Football League quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Dave Brown and Neil O'Donnell shopping at the Wiz's Paramus, N.J., superstore.

Former New York Jets star Joe Namath also is featured.

'WHAT THEY WANT TO BUY'

"The real challenge is to stop thinking about what is for sale and [instead look at] who wants to buy and what they want to buy," said Elliott Ettenberg, chairman-CEO, Bozell Retail.

The commercial, running on cable and spot TV, also uses new theme music, with new words to a melody similar to 1962's oldies hit "I Know."

The chain last month began airing its first Bozell spot, "Bob Knows TV," which features salesmen who specialize in the different TV products sold in the store.

That strategy will continue with new spots featuring salesmen in other departments, said Warren Kornblum, managing director of Bozell Retail.

Nobody Beats the Wiz has some 60 stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

COMPETITION TO COME

Electronics retailers have begun a fierce battle for market share following a difficult fourth quarter and the likelihood of more intense competition to come.

Circuit City Stores last year began its first branding effort, from agency DeVito/Verdi, New York, as it moved into the Northeast, a move making it the U.S.' second national electronics chain, along with Best Buy Co.

But the retailers also face competition from mass merchandisers and warehouse stores, and those targeting specific categories that the electronics chains carry-Office Depot on computers and equipment; Virgin Records and Blockbuster in music.

Competition is moving in from cyberspace as well.

Wal-Mart Stores, for example, which has been featuring computers, video and software products on its Web site, plans to boost its Internet offerings to about 80,000 products.

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