The company has a five year plan to build 100 stores in Europe, with four fifths of them in the UK and the first two planned for Thurrock in Essex and Southampton next spring. Electronics sales have held up well in the US and with its relative control of the domestic market Best Buy is looking to expand.
However, in the UK it is going up against a similar, if smaller, rival in Dixons Stores Group (DSG), which owns Dixons, PC World and Currys stores, along with Advent computers. DSG has a commanding position in the UK electronics market and is the company to beat if Best Buy wants to get established.
The biggest winner out of the deal is the anachronistically-named Carphone Warehouse, which will source and provide the retail expertise in the UK. In May 2008 the company got £1.1bn from Best Buy in exchange for a 50 per cent stake in CW's retail arm and the high square footage of the new stores means the the company will be set for growth.
Having visited the US chain's branches I'd say Dixons has something to worry about. Best Buy is looking to recruit around 8,000 UK staff (500 in the next year) and will be giving them something Dixons does little of - training.
All the new recruits will go through a nine-week academy programme, dubbed the 'Blue Shirt Academy'. This is where Best Buy will attack DSG, because while the British company may have great high street position and distribution efficiencies, its customer service is dismal. Tech knowledge among staff is incredibly poor and is focused on pushing particular product lines rather than customer need in my experience.
The kind of service you get in a Best Buy in the US is rather different. The staff are slightly more clued up about technology and have more choice in what to offer. They ask questions other than, "Would you like the expensive and largely useless warranty with that?", and while the Geek Squad IT repair team has its faults it beats anything you'd get in PC World.
That said it's possible the American approach will not work with Britain's surly and cynical recruits. Company spirit and enthusiasm of the American style, where staff have to sound like they really care if you 'Have a nice day', could be difficult to reproduce.
Best Buy had reportedly been planning a launch in time for Christmas when it made the CW deal last year, but has delayed and reduced its initial investment plans. This may be down to staffing issues, but also because the company wants to get it right.
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