In its next step to counter archrival Apple, South Korean tech giant Samsung is looking to establish its own direct retail presence in the United States. But rather than open brick-and-mortar-shops across the street from Apple stores to sell smartphones, tablets and TVs, Samsung plans to open Samsung Experience shops in 1,400 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile outlets in the U.S. this month.
It's an alliance that also helps Best Buy stop what has to be an annoying practice -- people using its showrooms for a hands-on look at new merchandise, so they can then continue shopping online. Dedicated Samsung staff on hand to answer questions and demo products may have a better shot at closing the deal in-store.
Both companies hope to gain ground against Apple's hugely successful chain of retail stores launched by then-CEO Steve Jobs in 2001. The company now has nearly 400 stores in 14 countries, grossing $16 billion in 2011, fueled by the panache of its brand.
"This is...about countering Apple's stores for Samsung and in creating a unique relationship tied to Samsung's products for Best Buy," technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told us.
He said Richardson, Texas-based Best Buy, a survivor in the struggling retail electronics trade, is wise to attach itself to the Samsung juggernaut. The company recently became the world's leading phone manufacturer, toppling Nokia, and its tablets are the only ones giving Apple's iPad a run for the money. Samsung also makes computers, TVs, cameras and home appliances, though the focus here seems to be on devices. The partnership allows each company to leverage the other's resources to accomplish its goals.
"Samsung is currently outspending everyone else on marketing which is leading to more demand for Samsung's products," Enderle said. "Samsung doesn't want to open their own stores so it is using Best Buy as a proxy, [while] Best Buy is doing this so that Samsung will market Best Buy as the place to go to buy Samsung's high-demand offerings."
The first 900 Samsung Experience Shops will open by early May, with the rest launching by early summer.
The stores will feature both Samsung 'experience consultants' and the familiar Best Buy blue-shirt sales associates, with Samsung employees handling demonstrations, product services and Samsung account set-ups and the blue-shirts handling sales.
"Consumers will have one place to not only explore and learn about our full portfolio of mobile products, but also the support of a Samsung expert to help with selecting and servicing them," Dale Sohn, president of Samsung Telecommunications America, in a statement.
Shawn Score, head of U.S. Retail for Best Buy, said "This is part of our Renew Blue transformation strategy -- working closely with vendor partners to innovate and drive value, while also updating our stores to focus on growing and profitable categories."