WAL-MART TESTS FAST COMPUTER-REPAIR SERVICE

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Supercenters here is testing a leased-space computer-repair service that offers to have the work completed and ready for pickup in about 24 hours.The first Computer Doctor repair center opened Sept. 15 at the Ankeny, Iowa, Wal-Mart Supercenter. Customers bring their ailing computer equipment to the Computer Doctor section set up at the store front, paying a flat $89 for

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Supercenters here is testing a leased-space computer-repair service that offers to have the work completed and ready for pickup in about 24 hours.

The first Computer Doctor repair center opened Sept. 15 at the Ankeny, Iowa, Wal-Mart Supercenter. Customers bring their ailing computer equipment to the Computer Doctor section set up at the store front, paying a flat $89 for labor, no matter how complex the repairs might be.

Parts are an additional charge, said Lonnie Helgerson, chief executive officer and a founder of Computer Doctor, Aberdeen, S.D. He said the Wal-Mart computer-repair centers occupy 400 to 800 square feet and are operated as leased sections by Computer Doctor. Two or three technicians employed by Computer Doctor work in the departments and do the actual repairs. If the concept works in a Wal-Mart Supercenter, it might also work in a traditional supermarket that has the space for it, industry observers pointed out.

The second Wal-Mart Computer Doctor is scheduled to open in February at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in West Des Moines, Iowa.

"We're going to see what customer response is," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa Brown told SN, adding that eight additional Supercenters "that have enough space up front will be getting a Computer Doctor over the next 18 months."

The computer-repair program could help boost Wal-Mart's sales of electronic products and computer accessories, said Helgerson, who added that the computer-repair concept would also be appropriate in a conventional supermarket.

During the first week of operation at the Ankeny Supercenter "between 200 and 250 customers a day walked into the Computer Doctor, and some left their computers for repair," said Helgerson.

He noted that Computer Doctor has 38 freestanding stores operating mostly in the Midwest and each handles about 30 to 40 repairs a day.

Helgerson said Wal-Mart officials approached him after reading about his company in a franchising magazine. Computer Doctor sections within the Wal-Mart Supercenters "will sell new and used laptops, printers, monitors and computer accessories in brands not stocked by Wal-Mart," he said.

Wal-Mart Computer Doctor centers are open seven days a week, and are identified by bright neon signs.