Five of the nine stores are stand-alone locations at various spots around Manhattan, while the other four are housed inside existing Best Buy stores, using previous cell phone sales sections that have been refitted and "amped up a bit," said a Best Buy spokesperson.
The Best Buy Mobile stores, as they will be known, will carry more than 80 cell phones from manufacturers including Ericsson and Motorola, and service plans from seven wireless carriers, including national players like Sprint Nextel and smaller upstarts Amp'd Mobile, as well as pay-as-you-go players Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.
The decision to offer a Best Buy-branded mobile-only store came from the realization that a gap existed in the market between cell phone providers offering a branded retail outlet and electronics retailers offering a limited selection of wireless phones and plans, the company says.
Taking a cue from market-leading Carphone Warehouse, the company says Best Buy Mobile offers a one-stop location for comprehensive selection and unbiased service and sales advice in choosing a phone and service plan. Employees will not work on commission, nor will they favor one wireless brand over another.
The stores, which opened in advance of the holiday retail season, are part of a pilot program under which Best Buy will evaluate whether to expand to other markets.
Recently, competitor Radio Shack ended its sales relationship with Verizon Wireless and forged a new deal to sell Cingular Wireless phones. It also signed an 11-year deal with Sprint Nextel.