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Best Buy To Begin Mobile Store Rollout In July

Minneapolis — Best Buy will begin the previously reported rollout of its specialty mobile stores in mid-July.

The retailer says it will open upwards of 180 Best Buy Mobile units in 12 states over the next nine months, including 170 shops within Best Buy stores and up to 10 freestanding locations. The rollout will encompass such metro markets as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and will conclude at the end of February 2008.

The stores, which began appearing in Manhattan late last year, feature an expanded assortment of handsets, accessories and services for multiple carriers including Cingular, Sprint and Verizon, and MVNOs including Amp’d, Boost, Go Phone, InPulse and Virgin. The concept is a joint venture with Britain’s The Carphone Warehouse, possibly the world’s largest independent mobile phone retailer with 2,000 stores across 10 European markets. As part of the pact, Carphone is introducing Best Buy’s Geek Squad service program into its trading areas.

There are currently 12 Best Buy Mobile locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and one in Secaucus, N.J., Five of the 13 stores are freestanding locations and eight are in-store shops.

Best Buy and Carphone identified the United States as ripe for the concept due to poor wireless customer service levels and the absence of a national specialty mobile chain. “Very few people say they have had a positive experience purchasing their mobile phones, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said David Sprosty, CEO of Best Buy Mobile. “Customers deserve a pressure-free, personalized one-stop-shop that puts the emphasis on them, not on the latest gadget or service plan.”

To that end, both freestanding and in-store formats offer over 90 handsets, 100 accessories, knowledgeable, non-commissioned sales staffs and a no-rebate policy that helps clarify pricing, Best Buy said. The shops also provide customer seating, as well as repairs, loaner phones and other services.

The stand-alone stores average approximately 1,500 square feet, while the in-store shops, located near the current wireless section, have about 800 square feet of display space.

During a 14-week test, Carphone reported a dramatic increase in sales at Mobile stores, with sales growth exceeding 100 percent per door in the latter half of the period.

Industry analysts predict that the rollout will put additional pressure on RadioShack, whose core mobile business has been losing share to carrier-owned stores.