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Best Buy Redesign a Bad Idea

29 Mar, 2012 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It’s sad for me to hear Best Buy is in trouble. The consumer electronics chain, which played a key role in getting DVD off the ground back in the late 1990s, has seen a significant decline in same-store sales and says it will close 50 big-box stores this year. The culprit, the chain says, is that more and more customers are using its stores as a showroom to check out new products and then buying them, for less, online.

Not me. For the past decade, every computer, every iPad, every iPod, every printer, every printer ink cartridge and every TV I’ve purchased has been bought at Best Buy. I figure I spent upwards of $10,000 on electronic gadgets from Best Buy throughout the past decade, and nothing I’ve bought there ever disappointed me.

One reason I keep going back to Best Buy is the prices are competitive. The other is that I liked the look of the stores.
I have my own ideas as to why Best Buy is floundering, and they’re not the same ones CEO Brian Dunn cited in an analysts call.

For starters, I don’t like the new store layouts the chain has been rolling out. The old footprint was inviting and friendly; the new look appears cluttered and too focused on products like the iPad and mobile phones that, quite frankly, I can get elsewhere.

Putting entertainment software – Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and CDs – in the back also wasn’t a smart move. A big chunk of the packaged media business comes from impulse buys, which is why Target, for example, is now selling discs at endcaps near the checkout lanes.

Best Buy has a great assortment of packaged media, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s tucked all the way in the back. Out of sight, out of mind. Furthermore, as I understand it, the department has been outsourced, so the personal care and attention given to product choice, merchandising and display under the Joe Pagano/Gary Arnold eras is conspicuously absent.

Walmart’s embrace of UltraViolet underscores the mass merchant’s commitment to packaged media, which it always has recognized as a traffic driver. I can’t fathom why Best Buy isn’t taking the same approach. When packaged media sales started declining, Walmart did something about it. Best Buy’s tactic appears to be moving discs into the back, as though they’re being punished for something.

Customer service also has suffered. Don’t get me wrong – Best Buy associates still are helpful and generally well-mannered. The problem is, you can never find one – and there’s not much cross-departmental training so that if, for example, you approach the computer clerk with a question about TVs, he won’t be of much use. Associates should be trained about the entire product mix, and then rotated from time to time so that they can learn more about every product line Best Buy carries, instead of being stuck in one department.

I say this in the best spirit of constructive criticism. I’m a loyal Best Buy shopper, and I want to do what I can to make sure it stays afloat.

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