April 04, 2013, 4:24 PM — Samsung's getting into direct retail with a bang. Today, the company announced plans to partner with Best Buy to open 1400 so-called ' Experience Shops,' which are Samsung mini-stores set up within existing Best Buy locations.
Samsung expects to have 900 of these store-within-a-store spots set up by May, where the company will be showcasing its range of smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras and accessories.
Six pilot Samsung Experience Shop have been operating at Best Buys since mid-February, and the expansion was anticipated by reports last week. The Samsung shop areas inside Best Buy will vary in size with the largest set to be around 460 square feet, the companies said. While only Samsung products will be front-and-center in the Experience Shops, Best Buy will also continue to sell Samsung devices alongside offerings from other manufacturers in the store's normal mobile sections.
This store-within-a-store concept at Best Buy isn't new. The retailer also carries dedicated Apple kiosks where people can try out iPads, iMacs and MacBooks. Apple has kiosks in 740 Best Buy stores, or roughly half as many as Samsung will be located within. Apple, however, has its own network of more than 400 stores around the world, where the iPhone maker earns more money per square foot than any other retailer.
Samsung's Best Buy shops will focus on mobile devices--particularly smartphones and tablets--and the initiative appears to be timed with the launch of the Galaxy S4 smartphone. Given the plethora of new features Samsung packed into its phone, Samsung needs this sort of presence to explain how they all work together.
The dedicated Samsung stores inside Best Buys will also have so called 'Experience Consultants' who will be on hand alongside Best Buy blue shirt sales associates for product demos, account set-ups, and warranty registrations. More importantly, they will help customers buy and activate their Samsung smartphones on the carrier of their choice before leaving the store.
Manufacturers bet big on retail
For Best Buy, having these Samsung stores could be a win, as more experienced and helpful sales reps would give it an edge over online retailers like Amazon or rivals Wal-Mart and Target.
Samsung's store-within-a-store approach gives it a toehold in retail while mitigating some of retail's huge financial risks, which bit other electronics manufacturers five years ago when the likes of Sony and Nokia opened flagship stores, only to shutter most of them shortly thereafter.
It also gives the Korean company an edge over rival smartphone manufacturers such as HTC, BlackBerry, and Motorola, none of which have such a strong, dedicated retail presence.
That could change as time goes on, however. The allure of direct retail sales seems to be swaying electronic manufacturers into physical shops yet again. In addition to Apple's widespread presence, Sony still has 22 stores in the U.S., and Microsoft has opened 31 stores selling Windows software, computers, and phones since 2009. Microsoft also bolstered its retail ranks by opening another 30 pop-up stores around the country to help push the launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet line.