Last Updated Nov 15, 2010 8:35 AM EST
In 27 stores in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and New Mexico, remodels have changed the store layout to create an extra-wide central aisle. The remodeled stores are dominated by a wide central aisle with demonstration tables for the Android, Sprint's G4, and the iPhone.
It's not hard to predict that the chain will sell more of the phones in these stores. As technology gets more complicated, there'll only be more opportunity for stores that are willing to hold customers' hands and explain how it works. The new store layout also adds that splash of entertainment that's increasingly essential for stores seeking to lure customers.
As retailing gets ever more virtual, Best Buy is adding a compelling reason to come in a store -- trained people could answer your questions there. Loads of people are going to find that mighty appealing in today's world of Web sites that ask you to plow through their FAQs page before sending them an email somebody might return who-knows-when.
By featuring the demonstration tables front and center, Best Buy signals a strong customer-service focus, which may pay off beyond simply selling more smart phones. The real question about this initiative is how fast it can be rolled out to all the stores. With the holidays coming, it's probably not a good time to start ripping up stores.
But there are ways all the other stores could get on the same bandwagon. Other stores could clear some space up-front and find room for one staffed demo table. It might not be as beautiful as that big middle aisle, but it would at least put the focus on customer service for the critical selling season ahead.
Best Buy hasn't commented on how much the remodels are costing, so it's hard to tell how much more sales volume the change would have to drive to make it worth putting the changes into all the stores. Ultimately, it may not pencil out. But elements of what Best Buy is trying here should find their way to all stores.
For a chain that's already performing well, the store remodels show managers aren't sitting back on their laurels, but instead are continuing to think about how to be even more useful to their customers.
Photo via Flickr user NNECAPA