Local buzz here in Colorado is that consumer electronics retailer Ultimate Electronics (no link: the site’s already permanently offline) has filed for bankruptcy and will be liquidating its inventory in the very near future. Fact is, it’s darn hard to sell consumer electronics in an age of Amazon.com, Newegg.com, Buy.com and even eBay.
There are a few companies that have figured out the CE marketplace, including a company notably missing from the Colorado landscape, Fry’s Electronics.
There’s no smarter CE retailer, however, than Best Buy. From its successful retail outlets to its popular Web site, Best Buy has figured out a formula that keeps it at the very top of the game. A company well worth studying for anyone who says retail is dead.
That’s why it was a delightful surprise when I was at Cherry Creek Mall earlier today and bumped into this Best Buy Mobile storefront:
A little digging reveals that the first Best Buy Mobile shop was opened back in 2007 and that it’s been growing steadily as a part of Best Buy’s overall business. There were zero Colorado-based Best Buy Mobile stores listed in the Best Buy 2010 Annual Report, so it must be brand new!
Best Buy’s 2010 Annual Report offers insight about how things unfolded: “In fiscal 2007, we also developed the Best Buy Mobile concept through a management consulting agreement with UK-based The Carphone Warehouse Group Plc. Best Buy Mobile provides a comprehensive assortment of mobile phones, accessories and related services using experienced sales personnel, now in all U.S. Best Buy stores, as well as stand-alone stores.”
Makes sense. Why build a small retail footprint store aimed just at mobile when you can acquire a company that’s already mastered the concept, particularly in a key international market.
A bit more digging reveals that at the beginning of fiscal 2008 there were 9 stores, the company closed three and added 32 in fiscal 2009 and opened 36 more during 2010, for a total of 72 stores domestically. On that trajectory we should see 100 of these small shops by the end of fiscal 2011.
Back to the store, though. Check out the interior:
Unlike the Sprint store that’s adjacent, the Best Buy Mobile store carries phones from multiple carriers to offer a far more neutral and agnostic environment within which customers can pick the best phone and carrier for their own needs.
It’s all incredibly smart and a surprise that it’s take this long to appear. My prediction? The single-carrier store in the mall just got a pink slip.