December 8, 2012

Retailers test new store formats

Their strategies include opening temporary, small-footprint or even more specialized outlets.

The Baltimore Sun

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Brian Hunt of Middle River, Md., shops at GameStop Kids in White Marsh Mall in Nottingham, Md. “It’s hard to find Mario stuff,” he said. “Most of the game shopping we do is for the kids, and this is kid-friendly.”

Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/MCT

Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy's connectivity business group, said the concept grew out of the recognition that "mobile phones are an important and personal part of people's lives, and while everyone has them and loves them, they hate the shopping experience."

At the Best Buy specialty stores, which offer phones from nine carriers plus tablets, e-readers, MP3 players and accessories, consumers can choose from numerous phone makers and plans with the help of store employees who get training on all the models and plans.

Moore says the strategy is working and the Best Buy Mobile concept is growing fast. The electronics retailer, which is closing some of its larger stores, now operates 404 specialty stores, mostly in malls, including 104 stores that opened this year. And Best Buy, not traditionally known as a mobile phone seller, has increased its market share from 1 percent of the market in 2007 to 7 percent.

Best Buy has turned its attention to mall locations because "we want to be in a shopping area where consumers are living their daily lives, knowing that everyone in America is going to have to upgrade to a new smartphone every two years," Moore said. "We want to provide that service to them, even if they're not a core Best Buy customer."

Barrie Avery, an 18-year-old high-school student, sought advice at a Towson, Md., Best Buy Mobile for a new smartphone he said he wanted mainly for calling friends and playing games.

Stopping in on a weekday afternoon, he said he felt more comfortable in a smaller store where, he said, "there are more (sales) people to understand what you need."

GameStop is opening 84 temporary GameStop Kids stores this holiday season, often at malls that also have permanent GameStop stores.

"This is truly our test environment," Puzon said. "We're looking at sales volume and footsteps every day. We've got options to extend some of the leases. With some, we may extend the leases or stay open as long as we get footsteps in the store."

On a recent Friday morning, customers at GameStop Kids at White Marsh Mall in Nottingham, Md., included parents buying holiday gifts.

"This is pretty cool," said Lisa Calvert of Dundalk, Md., about the kid-focused video game store, before buying two Nabi tablet computers, for her 3-year-old and her 6-year-old. "The other GameStops seems to be more for older people. This will be their big presents."

Brian Hunt of Middle River, Md., had been shopping in the mall a day earlier with his kids, who had spotted merchandise in the brightly colored store. He returned alone the next day to buy "Mario" book bags and action figures for his son.

"It's hard to find Mario stuff," he said. "Most of the game shopping we do is for the kids, and this is kid-friendly."


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