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Computer City last week launched the first stage of a $100 million brand repositioning with the opening of its first revamped stores, in the Washington area.

Washington is the first market in a staggered rollout of a new brand identity for the retailer and provides an early look at the chain's upcoming campaign, being created by Publicis/Bloom, Dallas, named in January to handle its national efforts.

Local-market media and collateral are still done in-house.

A teaser ad in the Washington Post warned readers "Do not buy a computer for the next two weeks!" That ad was followed with another headlined, "Introducing the next generation of the computer store."


The ad featured a floor plan of the new store, which will include an Internet Cafe and bookstore as well as areas for business and "user-friendly" training.

The newspaper ads and inserts, although produced internally, use the overall brand identity and look developed by Publicis/Bloom, with a new Computer City logo and the tagline, "Configured for you."

The new layout, with its cafe and bookstore, is designed to differentiate Computer City from competitors, just as Borders and Barnes & Noble made their bookstores into places to spend time and not just get in and out of.

Animated TV spots break at the end of June, with the opening of the next revamped stores in Phoenix, according to Steve Price, co-CEO of Publicis/Bloom.

Radio advertising also will begin in June, with direct mail and ads in computer magazines breaking shortly afterward.

The repositioning comes as several computer retailers have fallen on hard times. Montgomery Ward & Co. closed its Electric Avenue departments and outlets, while Nobody Beats the Wiz has filed for bankruptcy.

PC sales were up 16.2% in the first quarter in the U.S., according to estimates by market researcher Dataquest.

The market has been held in check somewhat as consumers await the June arrival of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98. The shipment of the operating system, coupled with new chips from Intel Corp., should give the market -- and computer retailers -- a boost.

Contributing: Bradley Johnson, Ira Teinowitz.

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