Best Buy not worried about U.S. competition

Best Buy store manager Russell Clark says “smart” home security systems that alert your phone are the next big thing. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

There was a time when Sarnians looking for the closest Best Buy to buy electronics headed across the border.

Now the tables are turned. With a new Best Buy here, U.S. licence plates frequently fill the parking lot at the Exmouth Street store, says general manager Russell Clark.

“To be honest, we don’t see a lot of competition with Best Buy in Port Huron, especially with 30 cents on the (American) dollar,” he said. “This Best Buy is being well received in Sarnia.

“We’re already seeing month-over-month increases.”

Best Buy opened at 1380 Exmouth St. in April, just seven days after Future Shop shut down.

Back in 2001, Future Shop was bracing for competition as the American retail giant Best Buy made plans to open in Canada.  Instead of competing, Future Shop agreed to be bought out by its would-be rival in a deal worth $580 million.

Best Buy continued to operate under the Future Shop flag in Canada until last March when the company announced it would shut down all Future Shop locations. About half the 130 Future Shop locations were permanently shut while the other half, including the Sarnia store, converted to Best Buys.

From an operating perspective, store employees went from being commissioned-based at Future Shop to non-commissioned based with Best Buy, said Clark, who moved to Sarnia from Toronto in 2012 to take over management at Future Shop.

During the transition to Best Buy, he has stayed on as general manager and said the product lines have remained essentially the same but customer service has expanded.

“The Future Shop products were similar to Best Buy but Best Buy now has greater buying power,” he said. “And now that there aren’t two websites, one for Future Shop and one for Best Buy, there’s been reinvestment in the single Best Buy site and it’s doing well.”

Best Buy also added to the local employee pool. There are now 58 full and part-time staff in Sarnia and the store is currently hiring at least 10 more for the busy holiday season.

When Future Shop closed, it took only seven days for the conversion.  New paint colours, new signage and new product displays were quickly added. Employees were trained on Best Buy’s customer service strategy and product lines.

When the store reopened as a Best Buy it might have taken time for some to note the change because exterior work wasn’t completed until months later.

A large portion of the store is dedicated to flat screen TVs where 4K technology has become commonplace.

“Now that 4K has been on the market for a couple of years, prices are coming down,” Clark said. A 55-inch 4K TV sells for less than $2,000.

“It’s really bolstered the home entertainment business.”

Best Buy carries a wide range of consumer electronics. Everything from MP3 players, computers, printers and ebook readers to Playstations, cameras, headphones and iPods are for sale. The store also carries old-fashioned instruments, including guitars and keyboards.

Smart Home products are emerging as the next big thing in electronics, according to Clark.  Everything from Wi-Fi thermostats to smoke and CO alarms that alert your phone are available.

There are also Wi-Fi video cameras on the market that allow you to see your home or business on your phone and to get alarms while you’re away.

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.