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Best Buy Broadening Musical Instrument Biz

Minneapolis — Best Buy is expanding its test of premium musical instruments.

The No. 1 CE specialty chain said today it plans to open 75 to 85 in-store musical instrument shops by year’s end, and will begin offering an expanded selection of instruments online beginning Aug. 1.

The store-within-a-store will average about 2,500 square feet and will stock over 1,000 SKUs, including such premium brands as Drum Workshop, Fender, Gibson and Roland, The Associated Press reported.

Best Buy launched the pilot program in seven stores earlier this year, and currently operates 10 music centers in California, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., the retailer said.

The initiative is headed by Steve Hehir, musical instruments senior VP, and Kevin Balon, musical instruments VP.

“The introduction of musical instruments is a natural progression for Best Buy,” Hehir said in a statement. “Consumers have always looked to us as a resource for music in a variety of formats. Now they’ll be able to rely on us for help with musical performance and creating too.”

The assortment caters to amateur and professional musicians, with price points for acoustic guitars ranging from $90 to $3,200 and drum kits retailing for as much as $5,000, AP reported. Merchandise includes everything from instruments and recording and DJ equipment to accessories such as sheet music and guitar picks and cases.

The music centers will be manned by trained musical instrument specialists, Best Buy said, and will also offer group and individual guitar lessons.

“Whether they’re just learning to play, or have been playing for years, customers can trust the knowledge and expertise of our trained musical instrument specialists,” Balon said in a statement. “Our musical instrument specialists can help anyone find the perfect instrument.”

Mike Vitelli, executive VP of the company’s customer operating group, told investors earlier this month that the introduction of new categories like musical instruments will be a key driver for doubling Best Buy’s sales to $80 billion by 2013. While all Best Buy stores carry a smattering of keyboards and guitars, he acknowledged that the chain is experimenting with extensive, “top-shelf” collections in several locations around the country.

Best Buy told AP it may expand the concept beyond 85 stores in the future, with the potential of becoming the nation’s second-largest chain in the $8 billion musical instrument market.