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VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

Gateway Plans New Store to Tap Oxnard's Computer Market

July 20, 1999|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gateway, a leader in direct sales of customized personal computers, will be taking some of the unknowns out of mail-order shopping for local buyers.

The Fortune 500 company is scheduled to open a Gateway Country store at Oxnard's Marketplace Freeway Center along Ventura Boulevard late this month. The outlet, to be located in a former Kinko's copy center site, will allow shoppers to try out different Gateway systems and components before placing an order.

The Oxnard store, which will be managed by Peter Imig, will occupy a 9,361-square-foot space within the 250,000-square-foot retail complex. Imig comes from Gateway's Goleta store, where he was assistant manager.

"Gateway Country was developed as a natural extension of Gateway's direct-sales model--building computers and selling them direct," said Chuck Grothaus, a spokesman for the South Dakota-based company.

"The stores were developed a couple of years ago when we noticed we were missing a large percentage of shoppers who like to shop retail," he said. "We have all Gateway systems; nothing is built before the order is placed. If they want a larger hard drive we can put that in for them. If they want more memory, a larger monitor, a specific style of keyboard, we custom-build it."

There are currently 168 Gateway Country stores throughout the United States, including the one in Goleta and a dozen in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. The first stores opened in 1996 in the towns of Orange, Conn., just outside New Haven, and in Matthews, N.C., outside Charlotte.

"The stores were initially designed because there was a new level of customer," Grothaus said. "What we've found is that Gateway customers shop in a variety of ways. They may shop at the store and go home and dial 800- or go home and get on the Web. Computer buyers have become much more savvy in the last couple of years."

Grothaus said the Oxnard location will have 15 stations for shoppers, each station demonstrating different computer models. Desktop as well as portable computers will be on display, he said, and users will be able to hook up to the Internet.

From a strategic standpoint, Grothaus said, the Oxnard location offers the customer base and geographic setting Gateway looks for when opening a new store.

"We do a lot of market research, demographic studies, looking for highly trafficked areas--those are obviously keys when locating a retail store," he said. "Obviously the Oxnard location is along Highway 101 in a heavily populated area, and it depends on the population mix. When research tells us that an area is technologically savvy, it makes sense for us to be there."

Other tenants of the Marketplace Freeway Center, built in 1988, include Wickes Furniture, the Red Lobster, Fresh Choice and Lazy Boy. Gateway plans a grand opening in mid-August.

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