Best Buy to be of­fer­ing con­sul­tant ‘house calls’

Sales­peo­ple come to your home, give you ad­vice on elec­tron­ics.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Anne D’Innocenzio Best Buy con­tin­ued on B9

Best Buy will roll out NEW YORK — a free ser­vice next month in which sales­peo­ple will sit with cus­tomers at their homes to help make rec­om­men­da­tions on TVs, stream­ing ser­vices and more.

The ser­vice, which was tested in five mar­kets, will be ex­panded to more cities around the coun­try. Best Buy CEO Hu­bert Joly said Tues­day that the ser­vice is a way to un­lock “la­tent” cus­tomer de­mand — the com­pany has found that shop­pers spend more at home than they do at the stores.

Best Buy, the na­tion’s largest con­sumer elec­tron­ics re­tailer, is try­ing to make it­self in­dis­pens­able to shop­pers as peo­ple shop more on­line. It has been beef­ing up its cus­tomer ser­vice in the ap­pli­ance ar­eas of its stores. This fall, it’s show-

cas­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of voice-ac­ti­vated de­vices from the likes of Ama­zon’s Alexa-con­trolled Echo and Google As­sis­tant at 700 stores.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Ama­zon also has been try­ing out a pro­gram that sends its em­ploy­ees to shop­pers’ houses for free “smart home” rec­om­men­da­tions.

Ama­zon rep­re­sen­ta­tives couldn’t be reached im­me­di­ately for com­ment.

So far, Best Buy’s strate­gies are res­onat­ing with shop­pers. It raised its full-year profit and rev­enue outlook Tues­day af­ter sec­ond-quar­ter re­sults that beat Wall Street es­ti­mates.

Rev­enue at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 5.4 per­cent, while Wall Street had es­ti­mated a 2.2 per­cent in­crease. Sales of prod­ucts such as smart home de­vices, mo­bile phones and ap­pli­ances were es­pe­cially strong. On­line sales soared about 31 per­cent.

“I see a wealth of op­por­tu­nity to push the com­pany for­ward,” Joly said.

Skep­tics had been pre­pared to write Best Buy’s obit­u­ary just a few years ago, pre­dict­ing it would fol­low its now-de­funct ri­val Cir­cuit City as shop­pers used stores as a brows­ing show­room and then bought on­line. But the com­pany has cut costs and im­proved stores and train­ing. Best Buy is also work­ing to forge deeper part­ner­ships with its sup­pli­ers, and of­fer­ing more on­line ser­vices.

Joly said Best Buy would do more mar­ket­ing of the in-home ser­vice. Cur­rently, sales as­so­ci­ates are pro­mot­ing it in stores — when they talk to shop­pers about prod­ucts, they of­ten will rec­om­mend set­ting up a home visit.

Con­sul­ta­tion top­ics range from get­ting rec­om­men­da­tions for TVs to stream­ing or smart home ser­vices. That com­ple­ments the Geek Squad ser­vice, which of­fers tech re­pairs and at-home in­stal­la­tions for a fee. The sales­peo­ple for the new home ser­vice are be­ing paid a salary or re­ceive hourly wages, not com­mis­sions, spokesman Jef­frey Shel­man con­firmed.

Best Buy joins other tra­di­tional re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Wal­mart, Tar­get, Home De­pot and Lowe’s in see­ing gains for a key rev­enue met­ric for the quar­ter.

For the quar­ter ended July 29, Best Buy earned $209 mil­lion, or 67 cents per share. Ad­justed earn­ings were 69 cents per share, bet­ter than the 63 cents that an­a­lysts ex­pected.

ALAN DIAZ / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Elec­tron­ics re­tailer Best Buy — a store in Hialeah, Fla., is seen above — has been test-mar­ket­ing an in-home con­sul­ta­tion ser­vice and will ex­pand it to more cities next month. Its sec­ond-quar­ter fi­nan­cial re­sults Tues­day beat an­a­lyst es­ti­mates.

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