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Best Buy In-Store Experience Development

Business 2.0 reports that Best Buy may seem to be in an enviable position. The Minneapolis-based company's 800 stores account for 17 percent of the retail electronics business in the United States, and its share price rose 10-fold during the past decade.

But keeping up that kind of growth is tough - especially when many younger, savvier customers are spurning the limited selection, bland decor, and sales tax of big-box retailers for cheaper, hipper online outlets.

Now Best Buy is opening experimental stores focused on desirable niches. Soccer moms, for example, get 'Studio D' in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, with personal shoppers and classes in how to use a digital camera.

The young gadget geeks at the top of Best Buy's must-have customer list get 'Escape,' in Chicago's swanky Lincoln Park neighborhood. Designed to look like a nightclub, Escape offers brand-new products that other Best Buys don't carry, as well as a snack bar and videogame-testing rooms with comfy couches and high-end TVs that are rented out by the hour.

The company doesn't know yet if Escape is an experiment worth repeating. "To understand a market, you need to have something out there for two or three years to see if it could be sustainable and profitable," says James Damian, senior vice president of Best Buy's experience development group. "It's a learn-and-earn model."

I commend Best Buy on two fronts -- first, for creating an 'experience development' group, and second for attempting creative in-store consumer engagement models.

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