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Inside Best Buy’s Small-Format Store

jackie barba
an empty parking lot in front of a house

Best Buy opened its first small-format, “digital first” store in July in Monroe, North Carolina, after piloting several new store models in nearby Charlotte in 2021.

We visited the location in August, one month after its opening. The 5,000-square-foot store features a curated selection of the retailer’s “best-in-category” products as well as expert services like Geek Squad and new ways to pick up products.

Similar in size and appearance to a modern AT&T store, or what a RadioShack today might look like if it still had a physical footprint, the store offers what Best Buy calls a “digital-first shopping experience.” The idea for this format to assist shoppers with product selection and advice digitally while in the store, such as through scannable QR codes on every display. 

Upon entering the brightly lit store, shoppers are greeted by a 7-foot-tall digital display that rotates promotional messages and explains what’s new and how to shop inside the store.

a glass door
a dining room table in front of a building

Most products inside the Monroe store are spotlighted on interactive displays for shoppers to touch and try, but not stocked on shelves. When ready to make a purchase, shoppers can scan the QR code on any product price tag, which sends the order to the pickup counter. This notifies Best Buy’s Blue Shirts to pick up the selected product from the backroom and bring it up to the register, which looks more like a hotel check-in counter, for shoppers to complete their purchase.

The store also offers an assortment of grab-and-go items, such as charging cables, cell phone cases and gift cards. Using the Best Buy app, shoppers can scan the bar code and use the mobile self-checkout option to complete purchases.

[READ & VIEW: Best Buy’s Experiential Format]

Other elements of the store include walls, shelves merchandising select cooking electronics as well as table displays spotlighting lighting and voice and smart assistance devices. It also offers:

  • A curated selection of popular Best Buy products and categories, including home theater and audio, computing, headphones, wearables, fitness, cell phones, cameras, smart home and small appliances.
  • Geek Squad and dedicated consultation service areas.
  • In-store pickup as well as new pickup lockers on the outside of the store, for around-the-clock pickup options (even for items not available in-store).

Over the past two years, Best Buy has been testing new store models and different ways to meet its customers’ changing needs in Charlotte. The models comprised five stores that tested only a few minor changes to its standard locations and two stores offering new and expanded product categories. It also introduced its first outlet store and a new experiential store.

Additionally, each one of the pilot stores tests different types of fulfillment and services, ranging from more warehouse space for online orders to expanded tech repair and support. All the locations added pickup lockers.

With a focus on store remodels, Best Buy expects to close 20-30 stores annually through 2025, consistent with prior-year trends. Best Buy currently operates 1,144 stores in the U.S. and abroad.

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