With a third showcase store open at The Westchester in White Plains, N.Y., Framingham, Mass.-based Bose has opened expansion channels into high-end regional centers. Although an expansion plan beyond this year has yet to be finalized, the company will focus initial expansion in metro New York and Los Angeles, notes David Wood, Bose's director of retail.

Next month, he says, Bose will open at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., on its way to a total of approximately 12 showcase store units by Thanksgiving. "We're still in an evaluation stage of the platform at the moment," says Wood, emphasizing the need to gauge the new format's success, albeit with optimism. "But we are opening some stores in a couple of key markets at the moment. We've got a lot of anticipation of what might be an opportunity for us down the road, but it's not clear as to where we'll go beyond that."

By concentrating on those markets, he says, Bose should put itself in front of the right audience, and, in doing so, will help build brand awareness. "In these huge markets, there is greater opportunity for us to use our resources to serve a larger customer base," he says.

The 3,000 sq. ft. store concept is likely to build upon that base - upscale audiophiles shopping for high-tech home audio installations. Bose's in-store demonstrations are of simulated living environments, where customers can develop ideas for single- or multi-room, customized audio design. The stores also feature in-home installation and a 19-seat theater currently playing "For the Love of Music," a multimedia music show that details the company's latest products.

"The showcase store design has evolved from a number of different platforms," Wood explains, noting that the company began forming its retail identity through outlet stores (the company currently has 48 factory locations). "We've been through several iterations from our first factory store, and much of what we've done has been designed through the resources we have here at Bose.

"In addition, the major design architect that we work with is [Hingham, Mass.-based] CDC," he continues. "What they've been able to do is take a lot of what we've developed in-house and really help adapt it to the retail environment. When you look at the music theater, the demonstration kiosks and merchandise displays, much of that has been evolved within Bose, while CDC has helped harness it all."

With expected success in its retail store venture, says Wood, Bose will create "equity" in nameplate awareness by forging an interactive, experienced-based retail format. "It's a bit different shopping experience," he says, noting that customers often make several visits before purchasing goods and services.

"And we're really in the business of creating exposures. Many people have heard of Bose but have not really had an experience to touch, feel or hear our products. So we look at our stores as a means with which to create equity for the brand in the marketplace."

In the near term, Bose will open showcase stores in Southern California, including sites at Fashion Valley Center in San Diego and Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles. The company will expand its metro New York/New Jersey store base with a location at Bridgewater Commons in Bridgewater, N.J.