Best Buy Copies the Apple Store

A Best Buy store usually has all the charm of, say, a Costco warehouse. Step inside and you'll find a cavernous space packed with everything from big-screen TVs to French door refrigerators. And on busy days you'll see a long checkout line filled with irate customers, many of whom are probably wondering why didn't save themselves a trip and buy online instead.

That may change, however, if Best Buy goes nationwide with its new look: a smaller, friendlier outlet strongly influenced by Apple's successful retail stores. The Wall Street Journal reports that Best Buy recently opened a prototype store near its headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.

The new location is about 20 percent smaller than the traditional, 58,000-square-foot Best Buy big box store. It devotes less showroom space to HDTVs, which suffer from dwindling sales, and focuses more on the retailer's best performers these days: tablets, eReaders, and smartphones.

And if you've ever had trouble locating an elusive a Best Buy staffer to answer a question (and who hasn't?) you'll appreciate the store's Solution Central help desk. Staffed by the company's Geek Squad employees, Solution Central has a similar look and feel to the Apple Store's Genius Bar, the Journal reports.

Tired of the endless queue leading to Best Buy's checkout registers? You'll appreciate this Apple Store-inspired innovation: Customers can pay for products in several locations inside the store.

Best Buy plans to convert 60 of its 1,000-plus stores to the new format, and hopes the changes will lure back shoppers who've moved on. According to the Journal, Best Buy customers now visit only 1 to 2 times a year, down from 10 annual visits a decade ago.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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