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Best Buy debuts new 'Connected Store' in Santa Rosa

  • Rami Zbib helps his mother, Leyla, shop for a tablet at the newly renovated Best Buy in Santa Rosa, on Monday, May 21, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Best Buy hopes to make its stores an experience, not just a big box.

The struggling electronics retailer, which is trying to reinvent itself as customers change their shopping habits, picked Santa Rosa to debut in Northern California its latest store concept.

The CD and DVD aisles have been reduced to half their original size, a reflection of the fact that more and more people download music and movies over the Internet instead of buying them at the store.

Best Buy Santa Rosa Remodel

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Throughout the store are "experience centers" where customers can try out Apple TV, play "Angry Birds" on a Roku, or see how a wearable camcorder made by GoPro can capture their next surfing trip in video.

"There's a lot more of these interactive displays that show exactly what the products do," said Chas Stanley, the store's general manager. "Without being able to touch, see and take pictures, without being able to listen to the speakers, you're not really able to experience them."

The updates reflect the changing nature of how far technology reaches into our lives, including the way we shop. People who want the latest gadgets now need a reason to get up from their computers and drive to a big-box store across town, rather than purchasing an item in just a few clicks on a website, and Best Buy is trying to give them more reasons to make the trip.

The sparkling blue tiles that line the floor of the newly remodeled Santa Rosa store are a flashy contrast to the troubled times Best Buy is facing.

Profits fell 25 percent in the first quarter, the company announced Tuesday. Revenues reached $11.6 billion, up 2 percent from a year ago, aided by an extra week in the reporting period.

The mixed news followed months of drama, starting with the company's announcement in March that it would close 50 stores and peaking when former CEO Brian Dunn resigned in scandal after the company launched an investigation about his personal conduct.

The Santa Rosa store not only survived the restructuring, but now has a new look. Though it never closed during construction, the store officially re-opens Saturday as Northern California's first Best Buy store with the "Connected Store" format.


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