Best Buy Beefing Up Web, Downsizing Stores

Best Buy is rebalancing its channel strategy to address market share gains by online retailers, including Amazon.com. In the process, the company is dramatically expanding its online-only assortment, is promising to price those products aggressively, and has begun shrinking the footprint of some of its big-box stores as they come off lease. The chain has also not ruled out the possibility of closing some of its larger locations outright. In a fourth-quarter earnings call last month, co-Americas president Mike Vitelli said Best Buy will offer "very aggressive" pricing on a much broader online-only assortment to improve its price perception with customers. The move is designed to help counter mobile price-comparison technologies, which can put in-store stock at a disadvantage because price checks don't reflect value-added promotions like extended financing, loyalty program discounts and bundled offers, he said. The low web pricing will be achieved through a combination of supplier fulfillment, two-step distribution and Best Buy-owned inventory, he said. Still, CEO Brian Dunn stressed the importance of maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence to differentiate Best Buy from online-only competitors. Stores allow in-person consultations, provide a convenient pickup option for ecommerce orders, and will give the company a competitive advantage should tax policy favoring e-tail-only merchants change.

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