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Showroom Revamps Keep Storefronts Competitive

MINNEAPOLIS – A pair of recent in-store initiatives by Best Buy and GameStop are prime examples of how retail chains are working to remain relevant in an increasingly Internetcentric market.

The former, looking to retain its lead in CE specialty retail, is following up its recent home-theater overhaul by installing home-automation departments in more than 400 Best Buy stores this fall.

The “Connected Home” sections will spotlight the rapidly evolving category with over 100 products from established vendors and start-ups, and are expected to be in place by Thanksgiving.

The assortment will include security cameras and monitoring service from Dropcam; smart thermostats from Nest and Honeywell; smart lighting from Philips/ Hue; smart locks from Kwikset; garage door accessories from Chamberlain; and wireless on-off switches from Belkin WeMo.

The departments will also spotlight networking equipment (routers, modems and range extenders), plus TV, Internet, phone and security services from cable companies, DirecTV and ADT.

Most of the home automation shops will be located near the center of the stores, adjacent to the mobile departments, a Best Buy spokesperson told TWICE, and will be staffed by specially trained Blue Shirt sales associates. More than 200 locations will also offer certified “connected home specialists” who received additional training, and all Connected Home departments will be supported by the chain’s Geek Squad IT support staff, which will provide consultations, wireless network setup, and training and education, the company said.

The move will help push DIY home automation further into the mainstream following initial big-box forays by Staples, The Home Depot and Lowe’s. Their formal, curated sections have also been mirrored online by, whose connected-home store is now in its second year.

Perhaps the most sophisticated retail presentation to date is a pilot program by TigerDirect that features interactive dioramas and full-size vignettes representing the various rooms in a house. (See TWICE, Sept. 8.)

Meanwhile, GameStop, which is diversifying into mobile with some 350 AT&T and Cricket Wireless stores, is leveraging its relationship with the carrier to bring ultra-high bandwidth to its flagship stores.

The fat pipes will enable customers to access video game trailers, special discounts and other digital promotional materials through their mobile devices.

AT&T will initially add high-speed business fiber to 36 test GameStop stores in Austin and College Station, Texas, where offers of rich video game content will be presented on store shelves and in “product communication zones.”

GameStop said the broadband upgrades will “drive one-on-one customer engagement through the delivery of relevant gaming content to [customers’] smart devices.”

Its aim, it said, is to produce “positive customer experiences” that will “accelerate the pace of change within the retail industry.”

The move reflects GameStop’s efforts to prepare itself for an expected shift from packaged to webdelivered gaming software.

The company has also been diversifying into mobile with the recent acquisitions of the 33-store Simply Mac chain and Spring Mobile, which operates nearly AT&T-branded post-paid wireless stores. GameStop also owns 48 Cricket Wireless stores selling the AT&T prepaid service, and will begin carrying Cricket phones and plans at 2,800 of its 4,200 U.S. GameStop stores this month.