Apple Store mini: Now Open at a Best Buy Store Near You
New Stylized In-Store Kiosks Signals Partnership Here to Stay

by Joe Leo, Columnist May 10, 2007

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Walk in to both stores today, and you can't miss it. The mini Apple Store inside Best Buy sports its own all-black theme as opposed to the retail Apple Store's white one. The kiosk announces its presence through a somewhat "towering" fixture with an Apple logo up top. Underneath, the fixture serves as a lock-up cabinet for "Mac Software Favorites" and other high-ticket items such as Airport Express base stations.

The section is about 8 ft. long and 6 ft. wide. Apple hardware sits atop low black tables where customers can sit down on cushioned black stools and try the machines out for themselves. (In stark contrast, to try out the PC hardware, you stand up and hard wear your feet testing your patience, uh, the product out). All of this sits atop a black carpet that serves to identify the space as Apple "territory." It all makes for a unique in-store experience.

The only products available at Best Buy stores, however, are the MacBooks, the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and all three versions (sizes, mind you) of the iMac desktop line.

If you didn't already notice the bright Apple logo glowing in all its glory, across from the kiosk/display is a black stand-alone shelf situated smack-dab in the middle of the high-traffic aisles. The shelf unit--adorned with two Apple ads pushing the digital lifestyle--houses other Apple accessories like DVI-to-VGA adapters, blank Apple-branded DVD discs, and other third party accessories like notebook cases and bags by Incase.

Product placement is everything, and if you don't pay attention, you will bump into this shelf unit in the aisle!

This new kiosk, store-within-a-store concept/setup really pales in comparison to the way things used to be presented. Had they kept it the old way, it would be highly doubtful that the former "test pilot program" would have gone anywhere or flourished at all. With the new digs in place, it looks very promising for both Best Buy and Apple and a win-win situation for the two, the latter reaping most of the benefits via increased exposure.

Though this is pure speculation on our part, it seems that Apple's decision to make its presence at Best Buy stores more unique and eye-catching to the average customer entering the store, could quite possibly be attributed to the fact that Apple's long-time partnership with CompUSA has been affected due to recent store closures across the nation.

As a result, reducing the number of "Apple Stores" in places that don't have, Apple Stores.

With Best Buy ranked the No. 1 consumer electronics retail chain in the nation, it only makes sense for Apple to expand its partnership with Best Buy, turning a test pilot program which became a limited regular presence in stores, into a nation-wide major presence now standard in almost all of its stores.

This also puts a whole new term on "Geek Squad"--Best Buy's computer tech services--when people start coming to Best Buy just to hang out at the mini Apple Store, which we're already starting to notice (and have been, uh, guilty of doing during our weekly visits, now that there's a reason to go there other than spend money). And in this context, we mean "geek" in a very endearing way when referring to Apple aficionados!

Now let's be honest. You don't see the gang hanging out and admiring the PCs running Vista, do you? Exactly. ("Wow").

Additional Information:
(posted 2:50p, PDT on 5/10)

In our rush to make "deadline" for this story, we left out some important information in regard to this story. First, our story would suggest--not the intention--that ALL Best Buy stores will be getting mini Apple Stores. Not so. What should have been clarified, and was the original intention, is that it seems that current Best Buy stores that are selling/offering Apple computer hardware (among other things) are the ones that are receiving this major makeover, from our observations (such as the two stores in our area).

Furthermore, we've already received reader feedback from e-mails praising this story, so thanks! On that note, one reader pointed out to us that his local San Diego, CA store has looked like this since June of 2006. He says that his store was chosen as one of the original "pilot program" locations. Thank you for that as well. Based on this information, it suggests that these new ("new") mini Apple Stores inside Best Buy--for those locations that have one--are ones that didn't sport the look of the original pilot stores and because of its success, are changing from the "give them a small section/space/shelf in the store" approach to the new one. Case in point, the original intention and angle of this story. Our apologies for the confusion.

(Let us know what's going down at your local Best Buy store by sending us an e-mail!).

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