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Best Buy's Dunn Endorses Multichannel Strategy

1/23/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — Best Buy’s unique blend of stores,
website, mobile shopping and support services puts
it in the catbird seat as electronics devices become
increasingly connected.

That was the message from Brian Dunn, CEO of
the world’s largest CE retail chain, in a one-on-one
interview conducted at International CES by Gary
Shapiro, president/CEO of the Consumer Electronics
Association (CEA).

“The business is changing,” Dunn observed.
“People are coming in to buy a piece that interacts
with what they already own.” Best Buy’s role in an
increasingly connected world is to provide the widest
variety of products from great manufacturers
and help consumers link them with Geek Squad’s
support.

“Choice is so utterly critical,” he said of the company’s
product and services assortment, and the stores provide a forum for consumers to “test-drive
products and see what’s good for them. It’s the best
place to see them side by side,” assisted by what he
described as “the most incredible sales force ever
assembled in the industry. It’s a compelling combination.”

Dunn said Best Buy’s multichannel strategy is gaining
traction, as demonstrated by “unprecedented demand”
on its website, and monthly triple-digit compstore
growth through its mobile commerce channel.

“We need to be where the
customer is and make good
bets on where they’re going,”
he said, although no one channel
is a panacea. “Online is very
important, but it’s not sufficient
alone, and bricks alone are not
sufficient. We need to be wherever
the customer needs us to
be.”

To that end, Dunn rejected the oft-repeated notion
that the chain’s 1,100 U.S. big-box stores are an “anchor”
around its neck, and described its installed base
of stores as “a huge advantage. It’s hard to greenfield
stores in this environment.”

The wide-ranging discussion, which included playful
jabs between interviewer and interviewee, also
touched on the merchant’s top product picks at the
show. Dunn acknowledged a TV bias, having begun
his career at Best Buy 26 years ago as a television
salesman, and noted, “I love what’s happening in bigscreen
TV. They’re big, bright and look terrific.”

Dunn also endorsed the Ultrabook category, which
combined with the coming Windows 8 update, will
give the PC business a needed boost, and provided
some words of advice to new exhibitors.

“I love being able to see some of the smaller exhibitors,”
he said. “We meet with the big guys all the time.
The challenge [for them] is it can
very difficult to break through.
They need to be tenacious, but
we are avid listeners,” and he
tells his team to “send me a note
if you find something interesting.”

Dunn added that the company
will soon announce new
overseas partnerships with offshore retailers as part
of its go-forward international strategy. Like its relationship
with Britain’s Carphone Warehouse, the new alliances
will allow Best Buy to leverage its partners’ established
local strengths and brands, which are more
familiar than its own franchise and contributed to the
closure of Best Buy-branded stores in China and in
the United Kingdom last month.