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Best Buy Testing Airport Vending Machines

Minneapolis — Best Buy will begin testing CE vending machines in 12 U.S. airports this month.

The automated kiosks are branded “Best Buy Express” and carry cellphone and computer accessories, digital cameras and accessories, flash drives and portable storage devices, MP3 players, headphones, speakers, unlocked phones, portable gaming devices, gift cards, travel adapters and chargers.

Pricing is similar to that found in Best Buy stores, the retailer said.

Best Buy’s partner in the pilot program is ZoomSystems, a San Francisco-based IT and software company that has placed and maintains over 600 robotic “ZoomShops” in hotels, airports and other high-traffic locations nationwide for Apple, Macy’s, Sony and Rosetta Stone, a language-learning system.

Best Buy’s machines will be located in airport terminals in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and San Francisco. The rollout is expected to continue through Sept. 1.

“The launch of Best Buy Express is another way for Best Buy to provide consumers with the products they need from a brand they trust, even while they’re on the go,” said Chris Stidman, the retailer’s strategic planning VP. “Whether travelers are looking to purchase a last-minute gift or are in need of replacement for a lost, forgotten or broken product, these kiosks will allow them to purchase the product they want from a brand they trust.”

ZoomSystems CEO Gower Smith described the 30-square-foot robotic shops as “automated, self-service stores” that provide education and shopping information about products, rather than high-end vending machines.

“No vending machine can do what a ZoomShop can do. It is a different experience,” he said in a statement.

Consumers can learn about product offerings through a software program and video display, and can make purchases with a credit or debit card through a touchscreen user interface. The shops are remotely monitored from ZoomSystems’ headquarters, where each unit is tracked for maintenance and security, the company said.