Best Buy Creates Female-Friendly Store

Discussion
Oct 14, 2008
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

With input from 40 local female customers, Best Buy Co. has opened a new store in a southeast Denver suburb that it hopes better caters to women without alienating men. Among other things, the store features natural light streaming in from skylights, blue and earth tone carpeting, and flat-screen TVs and appliances placed in model rooms showing how they would look in a customer’s home.

An article by The Associate Press noted that with the universal appeal of MP3 players, digital cameras and laptops, women are making and influencing more electronics purchases.

“Best Buy has traditionally served men very well,” Ginger Sorvari Bucklin, Best Buy’s director of Winning With Women, told the newswire service. “Best Buy’s roots 40 years ago were with high-end audiophiles. Because technology has changed so much, we know women make 45 percent of electronics purchases. This is about serving women better.”

Besides a shift away from the chain’s warehouse-like exteriors, female customers wanted to see how products fit into their own lives and what products work together. In one display, Apple laptops and iPods are displayed on dark wood cabinets atop white counters, with accessories like red and green laptop cases displayed nearby.

What is typically labeled the “home theater” section in a Best Buy store was changed to “family room” because women connoted “home theater” as only for affluent homes. The bathroom features a lower sink for children, lotion near the paper towels, and a private room with carpeting, a rocking chair, free diapers and softer lighting for new mothers.

From employees, women wanted eye contact.

In its own release, Best Buy said that that besides insights from local women, the store design ideas came from its Women’s Leadership Forum, or WoLF pack, a group of employees who promote women’s interests in Best Buy stores.

The retailer also said the store was tailored to meet local community needs. Room displays exemplify elements of a traditional Colorado home such as softer lighting, lifestyle imagery and more neutral-tone colors in display areas.

Some changes cater to all customers such as English and Spanish store labels and toy shopping carts for the kids. Gift-wrapping will be offered during the holidays at the request of many male customers.

“For electronic retailers the real goal is to treat both sexes more equally than they have in the past,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group Inc., told The Associated Press. “Those things that they believe are beneficial to women, I think in a lot of cases those things are going to make men feel more comfortable as well.”

Discussion Questions: What can electronics stores do to create a more comfortable and inviting shopping environment for women? Does Best Buy risk alienating its core male customer base with the types of changes it is making in Denver?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Best Buy Creates Female-Friendly Store"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

The strategy at Best Buy is very good. Other safety and security aspects that should be considered are well lit parking lots with shorter distances from the parking spaces to the front door. This is an aspect being addressed at Walgreens. Another good feature is to offer coffee inside the store.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I don’t think that Best Buy risks alienating its core male customer base by marketing more directly to women. Customers, male and female, want informed sales people, prompt and courteous service, a good return policy and assistance setting up new electronic devices. In most of these areas, Best Buy excels.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

With female shoppers driving almost half of buying decisions, the challenge to Best Buy is really about creating a consumer-friendly store regardless of gender. It would be inappropriate to make the store feel “feminine” in a forced way, just as it’s inappropriate to overwhelm shoppers with more “masculine” design cues. Admittedly, Best Buy is dealing with some uncharted territory here.

There are a few things that Best Buy should focus on in its prototype store:

1. Consistent levels of customer service aimed at lifestyle solutions, not just technical knowledge;

2. A warmer interior design scheme with other family-friendly elements such as the upgraded restroom design;

3. Merchandising related products together based on end use, in the same way that grocery chains are doing more cross-merchandising instead of just category dominance.

As Best Buy evaluates the results (and develops a rollout plan to its existing stores), it might just find that the concept is working for all of its customers, not just its female ones.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 4 months ago

In terms of catering to women, being able to communicate effectively is really the key. Providing product knowledge in simple and clear ways is how you connect with the female consumer. Females may be at ease with female associates as well. I like the retro fit of the home theater sections but that’s something that should have been done anyways. Sales would increase from any demographic if products are shown in the environment that it was intended for. Does it take away from the male’s shopping experience? I don’t think so. Plopping down onto a couch to watch football or the latest DVD on a 62 inch plasma screen is an excellent way to sell to anyone.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Two thumbs up for Best Buy, which consistently strives to improve its customer experience.

BBY will want to figure out a way to help moms shop. It can be difficult for customers who are carrying a squirming 18-month-old while attempting to find a sales assistant. Shopping carts with seat belts and some kind of toy to distract little ones will be welcomed by multi-tasking mothers.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Sounds like Best Buy has done a good job trying to figure out what women want. Suggestions I would make would be to hire more mature women as sales clerks rather than the typical college dropout male with the car salesman mentality. Another idea might be to add fashion ideas showing how that new laptop or iPod will match their shoes or outfit. I’ve often heard my female friends complain that personal electronic devices are not fashion friendly.

I see no risk in alienating males. Maybe if the stores draw more women shoppers, it will attract more males as a byproduct. I’ve always thought the best place to meet women was in a supermarket. Maybe next it will be Best Buy.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 4 months ago

Males, just as much as females, want a clean, bright, safe and comfortable environment in which to shop for electronics and such. Occasional upgrades and format changes to meet emerging needs are also acceptable to most men. And like the women, they also want clear, easy to understand explanations about products and services. That would seem to be the area to focus on.

Bottom line: I do not think Best Buy will alienate men with their female-oriented store format in Denver.

Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

The issue is less about alienating male customers but more about making a trip to Best Buy more meaningful to women. This is the same opportunity we faced with a major airline client ten years ago: women were the fastest growing segment of business travelers but couldn’t get a flight attendant to help them with their coat or baggage even in first class!!!

Best Buy is on the right track, though I’d suggest it is less about fixtures and store design (not that those things aren’t important) but more about building relationships with women, both in-store and directly through mail and email. Yes, good, old fashioned postal mail which Best Buy is smartly fond of!

Here it would also be wise to benchmark what the top performing department stores do, as well as other category leaders like Kimpton Hotels (Women InTouch program) and Palm Restaurants, where they extend their mission to build relationships with women by supporting causes like Dress for Success.

Andrea Learned
Guest
Andrea Learned
11 years 4 months ago
Best Buy has done a lot of great women’s market research over the years and has been very bold to keep tweaking things along the way (i.e. to admit they might not have it exactly right yet). I love that so many men are chiming in here to say they don’t think it will alienate male consumers. That’s the way it should be. Women are not the only market–they simply represent high consumer standards, and serving them well means a brand will very likely also reach men who are inclined to buy their products. One thing I hope we’ll eventually see–that stores/brands will no longer have to publicize that they are especially “for women.” If Best Buy hadn’t put in the press release that this store was for women, and just launched it as their new take on the lifestyle market for consumer electronics, women and men would likely respond just as positively. Gender specificity remains a big media story, even as innovative marketing efforts that may well be guided by gender are actually the… Read more »
Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

A better question on this topic may be: is Best Buy swimming upstream on this? Or, put in another way: have the last 25 years of brand-as-guy-hangout put them in a position where, no matter what they try, they’ll always be seen by women as a “guy” store?

And, from the female perspective, are some of these attempts seen as contrived or too late? Post op research is giving BBY the answers right now, I would imagine.

Think of the completely different experience the Apple brand has created at retail, which is very female-friendly. Is that achievable at BBY and then can it be rolled out cost effectively?

It seems that BBY should think about sub-branding this idea as well and comparing notes on what’s more effective. If anyone’s got an appetite for something like that, it’s Best Buy (if they haven’t tried it already, that is).

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How effectively do consumer electronics stores cater to the needs of female shoppers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...