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Best Buy accelerates mobile push amidst struggling sales

The big-box retailer looks towards wireless to stave off the effects of an economic recession

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As Best Buy this week reduced its financial outlook for 2009 and hopes to also reduce its workforce through voluntary separation packages, the big-box retailer is looking toward an open approach to wireless to stave off the economic recession.

On Tuesday’s conference call for Best Buy’s third-quarter earnings, Chief Executive Officer Brad Anderson said rapid changes in consumer behavior had created the most difficult economic climate the retailer had ever seen. He described a period in which consumers could significantly shift their spending behavior, having a dramatic impact on retailing. In the midst of weaker sales across the board, Best Buy has been ramping up its presence in wireless, providing consumers with a carrier-free way of making their handset purchases going into the holiday season and 2009.

“We want to help consumers start to get more from their mobile devices, period,” said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy Mobile. “We think retail has a huge role. It’s very easy for a Blue shirt to say, ‘Hey I can show you something interesting?’ That’s the social aspect of the technology. If I come to your house for the holidays, you might show me something cool on YouTube on your computer or smartphone. That human interaction really helps, and we think our team is in a great place because of how we build relationships with customers to help speed this along.”

In the past year, Best Buy has invested more than $10 million to get its staff up to speed on the latest devices, wireless plans and trends. It carries about 95 handsets, including some of the most popular smartphones. Best Buy got the right to sell the 3G iPhone in September of this year, following its deal with Sprint to be the sole national retailer to sell the Samsung Instinct, Best Buy’s best-selling handset of the past two years. Best Buy now has 40 standalone, wireless-only stores in the US and three in Canada, including three new Mobile Life stores in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington D.C.

“The more open it is, the better it is for consumers,” Moore said. “As a retailer, we are focused on getting the individual customer on the right plan, the right phone, and that is where this non-commission independent sales person really helps.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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