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Samsung Decides to Build Its Own Stores — Inside Best Buy

Samsung is battling Apple on many fronts, and retail stores are no exception.

However, this time the company has opted not to follow the same path as its rival. Whereas Apple opened its own chain of stores, Samsung has elected to cozy up closer to an existing retailer, at least for now.

The company is partnering with Best Buy and will open 1,400 Samsung Experience shops within the retailer’s existing stores.

“Seventy percent of consumers live within 10 miles of a Best Buy,” said Ketrina Dunagan, the Samsung VP heading the retail effort. Dunagan said that the Korean electronics giant considered opening its own stores, but quickly decided that partnering with Best Buy was a whole lot more appealing than trying to, say, open 10 stores of its own this year.

Of course, Apple didn’t exactly take an either/or approach, as it also has a store-within-a-store concept in Best Buy, though not as extensive as the new Samsung shops.

Samsung’s effort was cemented at a meeting in December between top leaders of the two companies; officials have spent the last few months laying out a game plan.

About 900 of the Samsung stores will open by May, with many starting this month and the entire rollout expected by the end of June.

Samsung and Best Buy have quietly been testing the concept for the last few weeks at six stores in three metropolitan areas — Dallas, Chicago and Minneapolis, Minn.

The stores feature two to four tables of Samsung tablets, phones, cameras and laptops, along with a help desk and a wall of accessories. The stores-within-a-store will have Best Buy personnel as well as Samsung-hired “experience consultants” trained on the company’s range of products.

Dunagan, though, contrasted Samsung’s approach with Apple’s.

“Our goal is not we remain expert and you remain subservient to us,” she said. “We want [customers to feel] empowered, valued and delighted such that you become the expert, not us.”

Samsung’s range of services will initially be more limited than some of those that have come to be expected from Apple’s stores. Samsung workers will be able to do software upgrades and some triage of hardware issues, but won’t be able to handle out-of-warranty hardware repairs.

At the Best Buy store in the suburban Dallas town of Lewisville, Texas, the Samsung shop occupies about 450 square feet of prime real estate in the front and center of the store.

The store here, like other Samsung shops, has a “concierge desk” staffed by someone trained to offer support for many types of software issues.

Samsung declined to say what it might have in store with other retailers or with the carriers, but noted there are some exclusive elements in the Best Buy deal.

“We are in constant partnership with our other carriers and retailers,” Dunagan said.

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