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Best Buy shows the future to Canadian retailers

Unwrapping seven stores in the Toronto area last month, American big box retailer Best Buy Co. showed retailers here how it has become one of the largest consumer electronics chains in North America.

“”We try to connect the cool stuff we sell with the customer,”” Kevin Layden, president and chief

operating officer of Best Buy Canada Ltd. said at the opening of one store. “”There’s a lot of interactivity with the products we sell.”” Best Buy, which has 500 stores in the U.S., says it will open 65 stores across Canada over the next four years.

Compared to the Future Shop stores it bought to start its expansion here, Best Buy stores have more square footage, wider aisles and a slightly different product mix. Because Best Buy staff don’t work on commission, products are more “”self-serve”” according to company vice-president Wes Skitch. At Future Shop, where sales staff is on commission, “”you need more sales assistance.””

Outwardly, at least, the firm shows no sign of giving up on the Future Shop brand. As Layden watched customers pour into a north Toronto store to seize opening day bargains, a few miles away a former mid-town Chapters store was being converted to a Future Shop.

However, senior partner John Torella at the J.C. Williams Group, a retail analyst, predicted that within five years Future Shops will be converted to Best Buys.