TIME WARNER TESTS INTERACTIVE TV SHOPPING FUTURISTIC PROJECT RECALLS DISNEY'S EPCOT, BUT ORLANDO-AREA RETAILERS ARE LUKEWARM
Byline: CHRISTINE BLANK
ORLANDO, Fla.-- While rumors about start-up delays and technology glitches at Time Warner Cable's Full Service Network abound, the company said the interactive home-shopping network will be up and running by the end of theyear. Spiegel's, William Sonoma, Shopper Vision, Winn-Dixie, Eckerd Drug and the Orlando Post Office have already agreed to work with Time Warner on the project that will target 4,000 pilot homes here. The service will comprise five channels: supermarkets, drugstores, discount stores, warehouse stores and a miscellaneous grouping. A Shopper Vision digital video shoot, set to begin this fall, will include 20,000 start-up products from Winn-Dixie and 7,500 from Eckerd. This is how it works: A "videographer" films a product with a digital camera, then "marries" the fixed object with a 3-D object. So, even though the original image of the product is basically only a straight-on snapshot, manipulation of the data allows the product to rotate on the screen. Eventually, viewers will be able to visually walk into their favorite store in the mall and try clothes on a movable mannequin whose measurements match their own. When a shopper logs on to either of the shopping channels with his remote control, he will be able to look at new specials and products, review his last order or browse around the "store." He chooses the category he would like to shop from, such as cleaning products, then visually walks to the shelf, picks up the product and turns it around, while zooming in on the label. He them makes a "list" of items he would like to buy and the list is transmitted to Shopper Vision, which faxes the order to the retail stores chosen for fulfillment. Store employees pick out the products, which are then delivered by a local delivery service. Customers will get their products the next day. Same-day service is available if the order is place before 10 a.m. Consumers pay the delivery charge of $9.95. Despite the commitment of a few core retailers, Time Warner is having a tough time convincing other Orlando-area retailers that home shopping will boost their business. "We're undereducated," said Tom Minella, a spokesman for Pizza Hut-Orlando. Pizza Hut had been one of the companies rumored to be interested because of its involvement in the internet. A company spokes-man said it will not participate in the project. Other local companies, including the Altamonte Mall, J.C. Penney Co., Gayfer's Department Store and two car dealerships said they either didn't know anything about FSN or did but were not interested in participating. However, Time Warner said it's working with many retailer but does not want to announce specific companies yet. "When the thing is up and running and customers and businesses respond, we will respond," commented Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler. "I wish they gave us more details," said Patti Vincent, president of Prestige Management, which manages Wekiva Springs, one of the towns targeted for the project. She said local homeowners were angry when they saw cables being dug near their homes. Time Warner officials hope the addition of the home-shopping service will win over some area residents who were angered by the laying of cable. Tammy Lindsay, FSN spokeswoman, said Time Warner will not actually recruit customers for the home-shopping project until later this year. Area residents contacted by Today's Retail Technology said their use of the FSN would depend on the cost. Viewer fees for the service have yet to be set. "We need to learn what the optimum prices are," said Mike Luftman, vice-president of corporate communications at Time Warner. Other potential customers flat out refused to use the service. "I can't see how it would help me," said Leonard Goodman, president of Wekiva's Prime Timers' Club, a local senior citizens' group. Eckerd spokesman Gary Hoeppner said families with parents in their late 20s and 30s will use the service more than seniors. "Retirees have time to shop," he said. "It won't replace people coming into the stores. They want that contact and service." Luftman said both senior citizens and families will be interested in a service that saves time. "If you're a senior citizen and you're not mobile, you will use it," he said.
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