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Best Buy’s new retail store looks like a true Apple Store competitor

Best Buy has unveiled a new digital-first small-store format in Monroe, North Carolina. Unlike the retailer’s usual mega stores, this new store is only 5,000 square feet and features finely curated display models laid out in a spacious interior, not unlike an Apple Store.

Best Buy hopes customers will use their smartphones to place their orders by scanning QR codes next to display products and paying for it in the app.

A concept drawing of a Best Buy small-format store.

There is a pickup counter where a blue-shirted employee will meet you with your order. Customers can also purchase small grab-and-go items such as phone cases and gift cards by purchasing them directly from their phone and walking out of the store.

If this new format has a decidedly Apple Store feeling to it, it’s because Best Buy clearly took some inspiration from the way Apple operates. Customers can’t take items from the displays to the cash register. Instead, they need to speak to an employee or order from their phone, much like at Apple Stores. Customers can also book appointments at the Geek Squad counter for tech help, similar to Apple’s Genius Bar.

Also, these small-format stores do not sell large appliances, so don’t expect to pick up a new refrigerator at one of these locations. Best Buy said in a blog post that large appliances will still be for sale on the website, and customers can order these items for home delivery or for pickup at the Monroe location. The small-store format will continue to carry large televisions, however.

This is a trial run by Best Buy to see if it works and how customers respond. The company took serious hits during the pandemic and had to close more than 50 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and laid off more than 5,000 employees. Sales were up but the company has experienced negative overall growth since 2020. A switch to a more streamlined retail model, with cheaper leases and less staff, makes sense.

Whether customers like it is a different matter, but a more personalized experience, a la Apple Store, could be just what Best Buy needs.

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