Where the consumers are
Verizon is the latest high-tech company to open store in mall
FAIRFAX, Va. -- Verizon Communications Inc. has flooded mailboxes, gone door to door, and even handed out free ice cream as it seeks to sell its new FiOS television, telephone, and high-speed Internet service.
Now, the phone company is following Apple Computer Inc. and other high-tech companies that have opened stores in shopping malls to show off their offerings to consumers.
The stores, called Verizon Experience, provide a snazzy setting for people to toy with new gadgets, play computer games, lounge in front of high-definition TV sets, and see how they're all enhanced by FiOS, the company's multibillion-dollar effort to replace the copper wires of its telephone network with high-capacity fiber-optic lines.
"This is a place where you can touch and feel and see it all, " said Verizon Wireless spokesman John Johnson, who said the company is not abandoning its other marketing strategies.
Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture of Verizon and Britain's Vodafone Group PLC -- and other cell phone providers have long used retail outlets in malls and elsewhere to sell phones and service contracts.
But Verizon believes its Experience stores are a new concept, particularly in the cable and satellite TV industry where providers more frequently market their products at electronics retailers.
The Verizon stores perhaps bear the closest resemblance to those owned by Apple, which has opened 147 stores worldwide since 2001.
Verizon opened its 5,000-square-foot Fairfax store Dec. 15 in Fair Oaks Mall with little advertisement or fanfare.
Verizon has so far opened only one other store -- in Southlake, Texas, near Dallas. Both stores are located in Verizon's most developed FiOS markets.
Still, even in northern Virginia, many of the customers who come in to check out the FiOS service are not yet able to subscribe, as Verizon continues to lay out the miles of fiber-optic cable for the service.
FiOS is one of the company's most ambitious projects ever, as it seeks to become a one-stop shop for its customers' communications needs with its new fiber lines that run all the way to a customer's home.
Establishing FiOS infrastructure is incredibly expensive: The company estimates it will spend $23 billion just to rewire its network.