Thursday, September 1, 2011

First EA Sports Experience comes to Charlotte's airport

If you've been dying to play Madden while waiting for your flight, Charlotte/Douglas International Airport finally has a solution: The country's first EA Sports Experience has a grand opening scheduled there for Friday.

EA Sports is the videogame maker responsible for many major sports titles (including games based on FIFA, the NBA, NCAA, the PGA Tour and of course the juggernaut Madden series).

The new EA Sports Experience, located in the airport's Concourse C, will be sort of a combined sports bar/videogame cafe/travel lounge. EA execs say the 1,400-square-foot store features food, drink, merchandise from local and North Carolina teams, 24 televisions for sports and four game consoles with EA titles to play.

"Hopefully, consumers will see it as kind of a waypoint in their traveling day," said Chris Erb, EA's VP of brand marketing. The store has spots for travelers to charge their phones and laptops.

Having an EA-branded chain of retail stores and traveler waystations is also a great marketing opportunity, Erb said.

Currently, the game kiosks feature just-released Madden 2012. They'll also have NCAA football games to coincide with the college football season.

Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard will be on hand for Friday's 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting, EA said, as well as mascots from rivals Duke and UNC Chapel Hill.

EA plans to open two more EA Sports Experience stores in airports this year, Erb said.

Other news: Charlotte-based apparel retailer Cato reported disappointing August results on Thursday, with stores open for a year or more seeing their sales drop by 3 percent. Retailers as a whole seemed to fare better in August: An index of stores tracked by Retail Metrics posted a same-store sales increase of 3.9 percent, excluding gasoline.

Another daily deal coupon site, Half Off Depot, is debuting in the Charlotte market. The site currently lists more than 100 deals in Charlotte, for things ranging from paintball to spa services to car detailing to restaurants. The site is one of dozens that have sprung up in the wake of industry-leader Groupon.

Half Off Depot says what makes it different is that its deals aren't offered on a time-limited basis, and it pays merchants in advance, rather than split proceeds with the merchants after the deals are sold. Lately, however, there's been a lot of negative buzz about the sites (like this Bloomberg story). What do you think? Are we overdue for a daily deal bust?


Anonymous said...

I used to live in Atlanta and used Half Off Depot all of the time. So glad it's coming to Charlotte! It's really cool, kind of like a virtual mall with all kinds of great offers.