The Best Buy store in Santa Rosa is undergoing a transformation, shrinking the floor space devoted to its inventory as it makes room for two sister stores, and possibly a third independent retailer, to move in.
The change marks another step for the struggling brick-and-mortar company, which sells products you can cart away from the store while competing with a vast universe of online retailers.
In Santa Rosa, that means Magnolia Home Theater, which offers home entertainment systems, and Pacific Sales, the kitchen, bath and home theater retailer, are moving in under the same roof. Both brands are owned by Best Buy, which is making similar changes at its stores nationwide.
"We're pretty excited," said Chas Stanley, who manages the Santa Rosa Avenue store. "Over the last couple of weeks we've been undergoing major construction."
The project illuminates the swiftly changing dynamics in how entertainment and educational products are bought and sold. Traditional college-ruled notebooks are stacked on shelves in the store not far from e-readers and tablets.
Soon, the rows of DVDs and CDs will be condensed into an area less than half its current size, Stanley said.
"It's hard to imagine they're selling all this stuff," said Alex Zeiman, 19, of Cotati, who was browsing the CD racks this week.
The company has been on the hot seat recently, especially when it cancelled a reported 30,000 of its customers' Internet orders just before Christmas. Then, Forbes.com writer Larry Downes predicted the chain would close in a few years, citing a 40 percent drop in its stock in 2011, decreasing market share and customer service problems. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn quickly fired back.
"We've worked to make amends with customers whose holidays were made less happy because of our mistake, and we're working diligently to make sure it doesn't happen again," Dunn wrote in his blog, "The D. Brief."
"Some believe the Internet has made physical retailing (i.e. stores) irrelevant. There's no doubt that the Internet, and the mobile web in particular, have changed the way people shop, but there is strong evidence that consumers continue to value the experience of shopping in stores," he wrote.
Deveny Rohrer, 18, of Rohnert Park, may be one of them.
"Where else do they have a physical selection like this?" said Rohrer, also an SRJC student, about the store's CD and DVD collection.
The inventory won't necessarily be halved, because the store is exploring new shelving with larger capacity, Stanley said.
But the musical instruments department will be reduced dramatically, Stanley said. Employees who worked in that department are transitioning to other roles in the store, and no store associates were laid off, Stanley said. He anticipates hiring 20 additional employees.
The construction began in early January, and should be completed by the store's grand re-opening on Apr. 20.