In a move which will place a much stronger bet on mobile technology and tablets, Best Buy will be spending $1.34 billion to buy out Carphone Warehouse’s stake in a U.S.-focused joint venture which pushes smartphones. The deal will also require Best Buy to close its U.K. stores.
I remember talking to Best Buy in 2008 about its wireless strategy and the company said it was going to put mobile technology front and center of its experience. Fast forward a few years and Best Buy does offer a great mobile phone buying experience by offering a wide variety of devices on multiple carriers, having well-informed employees who will actually talk to you and doing away with nickel-and-dime annoyances like the mail-in rebate.
Moving forward, Best Buy said it will focus on redesigning stores for what it is calling a “connected store” – picture tablets, phones and other gadgets on low tables with power and a real Internet connection so the user can get a real look at how these devices work. I’m very much in favor of Best Buy’s strategic moves because consumers will generally get a lower price online but are willing to pay a slight premium for the chance to play with a device beforehand, have a knowledgeable employee to walk them through it and for the ability to walk home with that device.