Best Buy unveiled its first Best Buy Mobile wireless stores in Manhattan last Friday.
The nine store pilot includes five freestanding locations and four shops within Best Buy, and feature an expanded assortment of handsets and accessories for major carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) including Amp'd, Boost, Cingular, Sprint, Verizon and Virgin.
The stores are the first fruits of a joint venture with The Carphone Warehouse, the largest independent mobile phone retailer in Europe. The deal, announced in September, also calls for Best Buy to establish a Geek Squad-type IT support service for Carphone within its home market of the United Kingdom in early 2007.
"The combination of Best Buy's unrivaled expertise in the U.S. consumer electronics market with Carphone Warehouse's excellent track record in independent mobile phone retailing across ten European markets creates a strong skill base from which to make Best Buy Mobile a success," the partners said in a previously released statement.
Vivian Ma, a retail analyst with CIBC World Markets, said in a research note that Best Buy developed the focused format to address its under-performing wireless business, and may try to adopt the U.K. model in which consumers first chose a phone and then select from multiple carrier plans.
Carphone CEO Charles Dunstone observed that "the U.S. market is very large but has little retail distribution on the Carphone Warehouse model," which is marked by broad distribution through nearly 2,000 wireless specialty stores.