Best Buy and Apple Together Again

by Janet Meyer Jun 27, 2006

Best Buy and Apple have teamed at least four times before now. In the mid-1990’s consumers could purchase Performas at Best Buy. They didn’t sell well in this venue, so Apple pulled them off the shelves. It wasn’t long before iMacs showed up at Best Buy. This didn’t work either. They tried working together again in 2003, when Best Buy agreed to stock a variety of Macs. Once again, the relationship didn’t last.

During the up-and-down years with Best Buy, Apple began selling computers through its own retail stores. Employees are trained to know the products well. They can talk to customers, demonstrate features, and in general show off the quality of Apple computers. They sell only Apple products and they sell them well.

Historically, Apple computers haven’t sold as well through other retailers. Some of the blame has been put on the sales staff. In the past, customers shopping at Best Buy found it more difficult to get information about Apple computers than about Windows based units. This is probably because it is easier to sell what you know, and with Windows dominating the home computer market, the majority of salespeople owned computers with Windows OS.

Apple plans to solve that problem. According to ars technica, Apple plans to teach Best Buy employees about Apple computers. They want to be sure the sales force understands how Macs work and become familiar with the full line of Macs. Apple hopes that this approach shows some results. 

With three failures together so far, some wonder why Apple tries it again. According to Apple Insider, a Morgan Stanley analyst thinks that Apple could realize a $400M profit from this partnership. This would seem like incentive enough for Apple.

It sounds good, but is there reason to believe it will work this time when it hasn’t worked before? There is a lot of doubt among Apple users. If you read comments on other sites, you’ll find that most Apple users don’t believe that Best Buy sales staff will sell Apple any better than they did the last three times.

Some Apple users are pretty happy about this announcement, though. Apple doesn’t have the accessibility that Best Buy does. There are too many cities that are not served by Apple stores. Customers interested in Apple computers often have to order online or drive quite a distance to purchase Macs.

Individuals loyal to Macs might be willing to make the drive, but those just looking for a computer for general use will likely only look at local offerings. It is these purchasers that Apple computer hopes to influence at Best Buy stores.

Some predict that Macs still won’t sell well this way because typical Best Buy customers are only interested in the lowest price they can get. That computer won’t be a Mac. This might be true in some communities, but what about the smaller cities? Some Best Buy customers shop there because there are too few other options where they live.

What do you think? Is the Apple/Best Buy alliance going to work this time? Apple has incentive to try it again, but does Best Buy really gain enough to change procedures? Best Buy wouldn’t seem to need Apple computers, and they are already selling iPods, so why is this company willing to try again? Let me know your thoughts.



  • MacGlee, this is exactly what most people expect. I’m not sure when the training is supposed to happen, but please let us know if things ever change.

    I had a pleasant experience at a Best Buy store, but I specifically asked about Apple and, just by luck, approached a salesman who actually owned one. It made all the difference. I wonder, though, what would have happened had I asked about computers in general instead of specifying Apple.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 36
  • So, how is this different from the Apple corner in CompUSA? They’ve been doing that for several years so something must be working right.

    Although - the nearest Apple store to me is only 10 minutes drive away, but the nearest CompUSA is only 1/2 mile down the road, so I have spent more time there than in the Apple Store. While playing about with some of the Macs there (before I got my own), I’ve been asked by a member of staff if I was hacking when I had a Terminal window open, and had to correct another member of staff when he told another customer that the MacBooks weighed six pounds (ok, I didn’t HAVE to correct him, but I couldn’t help myself - I’ve drunk too much of the koolaid ...)

    nilp had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 16
  • I don’t live near a CompUSA so can only speak to what I’ve read. My understanding is that CompUSA has a mini-Apple store inside. I don’t know if that means that those employees are Apple employees or just that they know more and actually place the computers where they show or not. Anybody know for sure?

    The other difference is that Best Buy and Apple have gotten together three times before with no success. It looks like CompUSA is the model to follow.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 36
  • Employees are trained to know the products well.

    In my experience, this is a mixed bag at best.  I’ve purchased both of my Macs at the Apple store, and my brother got his there as well.  I meet as many employees who know less than I do as I’ve met who know more.  And asking about software is an even less fruitful experience.

    The Apple store’s saving grace for me (besides selection) is that Best Buy and Fry’s are WORSE.  I haven’t set foot in a BB in at least a year.

    CompUSA is much better, but they obviously don’t have the selection of products that the Apple store does.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • CompUSA does have a nice selection of Apple HW/SW, but they do mark up the units quite a bit. Why would Apple try again? The more Macs in BB, the fewer stores Apple has to run themselves. Why would Best Buy try again? They want to be part of something that’s hot (Apple), and they want to crush CompUSA. It makes good business sense all the way around, if you ask me.

    Aurora77 had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 35
  • Apple is hot when it comes to iPod, but Windows still hugely dominates computers. Do you think Apple is going to be hot enough to make it worthwhile for BB?

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 36
  • CompUSA does have a nice selection of Apple HW/SW, but they do mark up the units quite a bit.

    The CompUSA near me has Macs that cost exactly the same as the Apple retail price, and the software appears to be the same or lower price than elsewhere.

    Perhaps being the Bay Area, near to Apple Stores, keeps this store honest?

    nilp had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 16
  • The CompUSA near me has Macs that cost exactly the same as the Apple retail price, and the software appears to be the same or lower price than elsewhere.

    I’m in Los Angeles, and this is true here as well.  Macs cost the same as they at the Apple store.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • What would really work is to have the “buyer experience” at these ratail outlets - be it Best Buy , Circuit City, or CompUSA. Without the same “feel” that Steve preaches each visitor or purchaser must enjoy at the Apple Stores, these experiments are merely to attack the less-demanding PC consumers.

    As some of you have stated, the Average Joe does not care where he buys his computer and does not care altogether which brand, for as long as his main goal is found - affordable computer.

    Apple could do well here as long as they fulfill their destiny to convert the restless PC folks to the low- to mid-range Mac desktops and portables. $400 mils projected intake from these experiments are aggressively optimistic but if it “clicks” then Apple can defend the Apple Stores’ status-quo as the premier Mac/iPod outlet by having these satellite sources close to the heart of the Windows majority in the Americas.

    No, I do not think there will be cannibalization to the Apple Retail Stores. I do not believe Apple intends to fully assimilate these mini-stores to have a negative impact on their prime retail ops. These will merely complement their big brothers - say to promote and increase interests in the part of Windows users that the mini-stores are only a tip of the Mac iceberg.

    Steve would then use these mini-stores as pylons of his new slogan, “Go uptown, young man, and you shall be a satisfied Macolyte”.

    Robomac had this to say on Jun 27, 2006 Posts: 846
  • I wish Apple would stop with the store in a store mess. They should be putting these computers side by side with their PC brethren and let consumer decide which they prefer. Of course they should have Apple specific accessories easy to find but let OS X stand on its own. If they want to WOW customers, do what the Apple stores do and set up a station with a digital camera, an iPod/iPhone and connected to iTunes, just to let people see how easy they are to use but not shoved in a back corner of the store but right there in a row with the HP’s and Sony’s.

    macalanche had this to say on Jul 18, 2007 Posts: 1
  • went to best buy yesterday and saw the display in the store, very nice (makes the apple cult feel good to see it big front and center - ahhh home). i hope they carry more support products (other than ipod - which Best Buy was already caring) beyond just the little hardware they had on display (maybe they had it, i just breezed through looking for a wide format print which Best Buy didn’t have - went to Office Max).

    toddroll had this to say on Jul 22, 2007 Posts: 1
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