Stores set for Best Buy’s competition

Competitors say niche markets and customer loyalty could help their smaller stores.
Friday, July 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:06 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The big blue building with the giant yellow tag on Stadium Boulevard is expected to create competition with electronics, appliance and music stores in Columbia.

Best Buy will open in the old Kmart building at 2001 W. Worley St. on Aug. 13. Kmart closed in February.

Jay Musolf, spokesman for Best Buy, based in Minneapolis, said Columbians recognize the blue stores with the yellow tags, and that recognition prompted the company to open a Columbia store.

“Based on a lot of studies researching store locations, Columbia residents have shopped at Best Buy before and want to shop there again,” Musolf said.

Columbia is also a regional sales center, Musolf said. The company wants to draw shoppers from not only Columbia, but also periphery areas.

Musolf said the Columbia store will be about 45,000 square feet and employ about 150 people.

Best Buy, a company that earned $5.5 billion in first quarter sales this year, could affect Columbia’s economy.

Circuit City is Best Buy’s largest competitor in the Columbia market. Nationally, Circuit City’s sales amounted to $2.1 billion in the first quarter of this year.

Steve Mullen, spokesman for Circuit City, said the company welcomes the competition.

“We compete very well with Best Buy across the country,” Mullen said.

He also said that because Circuit City has had a presence in Columbia for 10 years, people have loyalty to the company.

Musolf said Best Buy will help bring more traffic through the area.

David Cochran, an employee at the Radio Shack a couple of stores down from Best Buy, said the new store could boost business at Radio Shack.

“Every single person who walks through that door knows exactly what they want,” Cochran said. “With Best Buy, there will be so much more traffic over here, people might drop by just to browse.”

Musolf said Best Buy looks for areas with “compatible businesses” such as theaters, coffee shops or restaurants that will ensure people come through the store.

It can be difficult for smaller stores to compete with Best Buy, said Liz Tooley, assistant manager at Slacker’s CDs and Games.

Best Buy and other large retailers can buy 500 copies of a CD or DVD and Slacker’s might only buy five or 10. This can mean higher prices at Slacker’s, Tooley said, but Slacker’s offers used merchandise, which is cheaper and accepts trade-ins.

“(National stores) carry a lot of the same titles, but we have a wider variety of genres,” Tooley said. “Plus we have a try-and-buy where you can listen to a CD or try a game before buying it.”

She said the store has enough of a niche in Columbia and enough people want to support local stores that she isn’t worried about competition from Best Buy.

Russ Palmer, a sales adviser at Downtown Appliance, also said he’s not worrying about Best Buy.

“When Lowe’s and Home Depot and when Circuit City was selling appliances, it didn’t hurt,” Palmer said. “We increased sales every year when those guys were moving in.”

Palmer said people enjoy buying from a local dealer because the dealer can service the appliance locally.

Musolf said Best Buy will raise overall awareness of electronics and might create more of a market for electronics in general.

“You have to remember that Best Buy started out as one of those mom-and-pop shops,” Musolf said. “As we’ve grown, we’ve kept a lot of respect for those smaller consumer electronics businesses.”

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