Best Buy Enters Circuit City's Home Turf

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For years, Circuit City has operated stores in Best Buy's corporate backyard of Minneapolis, Minn. Last Friday, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer returned the favor by opening two of four planned Best Buy units in Circuit's hometown of Richmond, Va.

On a brilliant autumn morning, CEO Richard M. Schulze cut the ribbon on a 45,000 square foot Concept 4.5 store located less than a five-minute drive from Circuit City's national headquarters. The unit was one of 11 the company opened around the country that day, pushing its store count to nearly 350 as it barrels its way to its goal of 650 stores by 2004. By then, Schulze projected, Best Buy will have doubled its annual revenue to $25 billion from the current fiscal year's $12.5 billion in sales.

Also helping it reach that goal is a "red-hot" consumer electronics industry and a cooperative economy, he told TWICE. "CE is on a roll," he said. "We haven't seen this type of energy since the introduction of the compact disc as conversion continues to birth affordable high-technology products."

"These are the best of times," the Best Buy founder continued, predicting a robust holiday selling season that will carry into 2000. "The products are compelling, inflation is controlled and consumer confidence is high."

Circuit City CEO Richard Sharp refused to comment on his chief rival's incursion into home turf.

Besides Schulze, the grand opening brought out such top Best Buy brass as John Walden, president of the company's just-formed e-commerce subsidiary, and Wade Fenn, executive VP marketing. Walden said that contrary to press reports, the store's forthcoming CE selling site was never intended to debut in time for fourth quarter sales, and that the expected launch in early 2000 is actually four months ahead of schedule.

As for Best Buy's much-anticipated entry into the New York market next year, Fenn said at least one and possibly two of the initial units will be located in Manhattan, conceivably as multi-level stores, and that the company is already planning a gala kick-off concert in Central Park.

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