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Dive Brief:

  • Best Buy plans to open a new small-format, “digital-first” store that the retailer describes as the first of its sort in the company’s store portfolio.
  • The 5,000-square-foot store opens Tuesday in Monroe, North Carolina, and is focused around a curated product selection, the company said in its announcement.
  • The store is outfitted with technology allowing customers to scan product QR codes for desk pickup, as well as mobile self-checkout and livestreaming employee service for product advice. The new store also has lockers for around-the-clock store pick-up orders, Best Buy said.

Dive Insight:

Best Buy has been experimenting with its store operations and formats in recent years as it tries to carve out its place in the retail landscape as more purchasing shifts to digital in the form of pure e-commerce as well as omnichannel options for customers.

Among the formats Best Buy has been playing with are outlet stores, which are a relatively recent addition. The outlet stores offer open-box products at discounts. The stores are also built to handle more repairs than the traditional Best Buy store.

The new 5,000-square-foot store is in Monroe, North Carolina.

Image courtesy of Best Buy 


When launching the outlet concept, the retailer said that it reflected “our belief that there’s no such thing as a single, perfect store — instead, it’s all about a mix of different types of experiences working together within its specific community.”

Along with formats, Best Buy has restructured its operations and box stores in various ways. It has pared back its sales floor and limited SKUs in some stores to make room for in-store fulfillment items and operations.

Best Buy has also shifted the tasks and functions of its sales staff to accommodate a shift in operations toward digital. That includes untethering staff from product departments so they can help customers throughout the store.

Executives have said in the past this is to improve customer experience by providing a single point of contact for the shopping journey. Some employees told Retail Dive that the system makes it difficult to develop expertise in any area and makes for a more harried pace at the store, especially amid staff cuts last year. 

Prior to launching the new small-format store, Best Buy has operated stores of various sizes, from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet. In a March analyst call, Damien Harmon, executive vice president for omnichannel with the company, pointed to the retailer’s experiments in the Charlotte market as an illustration of the benefits of smaller stores.

“When you look at the before and after map of the Charlotte market, you can see we have reduced our overall square footage by 5% and yet we’ve increased our customer coverage in the marketplace from 76% to 85%,” Harmon said then, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “We’ve also added 260 access points, where customers can get their gear and employee delivery covers nearly half of the metro.”

The new store builds on various of Best Buy’s store tests. It features a more limited product selection — “our best-in-category products,” the company said — that includes TVs but leaves out major appliances and other large products. The store also houses services that have become a critical part of Best Buy’s offer, such as Geek Squad services. 

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