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Outdated electronics can be converted to gift cards

After Office Depot began collecting old electronic gadgets for recycling, officials were surprised what people fished out of the dark recesses of their closets. Outdated desktops and camcorders that still worked. Dead MP3 players with parts worth reconditioning. "People threw out stuff that still had value just because they didn't know what else to do with it," said Rob Dunbar, director of services at the office supply retailer as he explained how the Delray Beach chain is making a business buying tech trash.

It's just one of many examples of retailers showing up in places where customers might not expect to find them. The new ventures aren't a byproduct of today's flagging economy. Retail is all about keeping up with change, so successful retailers test boundaries in good times and bad.

Office Depot's Tech Trade-in ( runs through a link on the retailer's Web site maintained by electronics recycler N.E.W. Customer Service Cos. Type in the model number and condition of yesterday's desktop, LCD-TV, MP3, digital camera, game console or smart phone to get a price quote. The site prints a shipping label for a box sent free to your home. Within two weeks after you send in the gadget, an Office Depot gift card is supposed to arrive.

Now handled online only, Office Depot will market the service this fall before deciding how to offer it at stores.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Retailers in unexpected territory
Best Buy is getting into musical instruments and garage band/DJ recording equipment. The lineup includes guitars, drum kits, keyboards and amps at 85 of 973 stores. Would-be rockers try out purchases where customers can listen or retreat to sound-proof demo rooms where lessons are sold. The size of a Best Buy home theater center, music shops open next month in Clearwater and Brandon.

Walgreens deployed its own Casual Gear line for shoppers willing to buy kick-around-the-house clothing in drugstores. Created by Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham, the all-cotton line ranges from two-for-$12 T-shirts or sweat pants to $14.99 hoodies.

Discount stores noticed how Best Buy parlayed home installation into a profit center and realized they had to follow suit to be serious electronics sellers. So Wal-Mart is testing Dell Computer-staffed "Solution Centers" in 15 supercenters in Dallas. And signed a deal with Zip Express to handle installation projects from HDTV sets to home furniture setup nationwide. Zip Express received contracts and background checks on 16,000 certified installers who bid daily for jobs. Next-day delivery is extra. Zip is negotiating to be in Target stores and two more chains by Christmas.

Sears Roebuck next month launches the U.S. Army's first-ever licensed apparel brand using the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) insignia on fashionable military-influenced clothing. This is not Army surplus. All American Army Brand is ruggedly constructed fashion apparel done in military style like cargo pants, denim, sweaters and a $119.99 Pershing jacket. The Army will divert the profit to programs for military families.

Build-a-Bear-Workshop has pushed its plush figures into licensed sports gear including Major League Baseball. The chain sells little uniforms for each team to dress its custom-made bears. It also sells team mascots sold only in Build-a-Bear stores inside eight big-league baseball stadiums, at a mobile workshop that travels to events or through sponsored giveaway promotions. So far the Tampa Bay Rays' new blue unis are available only online or in stores. But Build-a-Bear promises a commemorative if the Rays become American League champs.

Outdated electronics can be converted to gift cards 09/08/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 9:35am]
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