Best Buy is testing a digital-first, smaller retail store

Best Buy is opening a new digital-first 5,000 square feet small store in Monroe, North Carolina on July 26. This store will have selected tech products like home theater and audio, computing, headphones, wearables, fitness, cell phones, cameras, smart home and small appliances that shoppers can experience and purchase.

This is a departure from the company’s big box stores that are typical of 35,000-40,000 square feet in size. The company says while shoppers won’t be able to buy major appliances from this store, they can still place an order on the site and pick them up from the Monroe store. What’s more, for regular-sized items, the company is placing pick-up lockers outside the store, so shoppers can grab online orders anytime.

Blue shirt employees and Geek Squad techs will staff the store for purchasing advice. Plus, shoppers can virtually contact experts through its virtual store through voice calls, video calls or chat.

Demos are a critical part of this format, and the firm said shoppers can try most of the products before buying them. Like Apple Stores, shoppers can purchase items from the show floor. Just scan a QR code next to the item, and Best Buy staff will bring the item from the backroom. Or if it’s a small item, like a charging cable, scan the QR code using the Best Buy app and grab the item from the shelf.

Best Buy said last year it wanted to experiment with new store formats and this digital-first small store is a part of that project. The firm has experimented with small-format stores in the past with its mobile stores, but it closed them down in 2018. These stores, mainly located in shopping malls, were even smaller in size with an average footprint of less than 2,000 square feet.

Amazon has also been experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores by opening its first clothing store in May in Los Angeles. The company also introduced a new shopping cart earlier this month that allows customers to skip the checkout line.