Browsing through Best Buy’s vacuum department on a late spring day, a consumer was approached by a salesperson, who asked if she needed assistance. When she replied that she was just looking, the sales person reassured, “If you need anything, just let us know. We’re not on commission, and we’re here to help.”
While the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based chain’s low-key methods aren’t typical of electronic and applicance stores, the 157-store chain’s strategy of providing a wide assortment at competitive prices combined with extensive promotions and knowledgeable salespeople has produced outstanding results: annual vacuum sales of approximately $25 million.
“They’re pretty aggressive,” a manufacturer explained, “in their advertisements and in the fact that they carry a larger selection of uprights than most retailers.”
“I have also shopped Best Buy for personal reasons and found that they [salespeople] are very well informed, plus they have a source that they’re going to be expanding where they can key something into the computer and bring a printout that has the features and benefits of a particular product,” a vendor contributed. Currently, signage is used to indicate vacuum attributes, including headlight, cord length and number of attachments.
Best Buy, located for 14 months in the Fashion Corners Mall here, recently displayed 20 uprights and one canister. In comparison, Wal-Mart boasted 14 uprights and one canister, and Target had 16 uprights and a canister. Montgomery Ward’s Electric Avenue carries 19 uprights and 3 canisters.
Weighing the selection toward uprights–at the expense of canisters–is a smart strategy on Best Buy’s part, according to vendors. “They’re being aggressive and trying to capture the largest part of the market [which is uprights], and they have the largest selection. That’s their aggressive approach. If they have a canister, it may be turning half or a quarter of an upright,” a vendor said.
Saginaw shoppers find Best Buy’s neatly kept display models positioned against a contemporary background of red wire against a light-colored wall. Four header cards call out brand names. Boxed products were stacked above a string of bright yellow lights and below the midriff-high, 24-foot-long display.
Upright vendors included Eureka, Hoover, Singer and Royal. Best Buy’s remaining selection is limited but thorough: Royal’s Dirt Devil stick vac carried that segment, with Eureka’s Boss Lite creating a bridge between the stick vac and hand vac categories. Hoover’s Heavy Duty Brush Vac and Eureka’s Corvette Vac comprised the hand vac offerings. Accessories, including IdeaWorks’ ceiling fan attachment and assorted bags and belts, were hung behind the display product.
Best Buy is not afraid to shake up its plan-o-gram mid-year to quickly take advantage of hot new products, vendors said.
Best Buy’s assortment is currently being revised to include the new Hoover PowerDrive and Dimension models and two Panasonic SKUs, which are expected to be popular with the store’s young, electronically savvy, brand-conscious crowd. Four clearance models, being liquidated to make room for the new stock, were placed on the store’s western wall, intersecting the corner where the regular vacuum display began.
“They don’t wait until they’re out of a product to get into a new one,” a manufacurer explained. “They react quickly and as soon as a product is available, they’re bringing it in. Several other retailers would rather purge their selection of the old product before bringing in a new model.”
Hoover’s Steam Vac, for example, hit Best Buy’s floor within months of the unit’s department store introduction. In-store demonstrations, an endcap display featuring an educational looped video and a mention in the Best Buy circular kicked off the promotion.
One manufacturer correlated Best Buy’s broad selection to its non-commissioned sales help and clean, open floor space. “I believe it goes along with their warehouse-type atmosphere, where the consumer comes in and has a lot to choose from because they have information centers instead of commissioned salespeople, who can quickly narrow a person. If a person is making her own choice, she needs a wide selection to choose from,” a vendor said.