Best Buy opens in UK: Thurrock store photo tour

Best Buy opens its first UK store on Saturday, and we've had a preview. Take our photo tour to see if this the future of technology retail or another shop to complain about

Richard Trenholm
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Richard Trenholm
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The first Best Buy in the UK opens its doors this weekend, and Crave has had a preview. The US retailer could shake up our stagnant technology retail sector, or it could be more high prices and bad customer service, only in blue shirts. Take our photo tour and tell us what you think: Best Buy or nice try?

The cavernous first store is in Thurrock, Essex, near Lakeside shopping centre and in a retail park with Ikea, Toys'R'Us and many other consumerist cathedrals. The range of products is much wider than most technology shops, even approaching a department store in selling kitchens alongside TVs and laptops.

We were impressed by the keen and knowledgeable staff, although bear in mind this was a press day and everyone was on their best behaviour. The staff had each been training for a whopping nine weeks, and, interestingly, had been visited and trained by a number of manufacturers, including Sony, Samsung and Ubisoft.

From anecdotal evidence and your comments, it seems many of you are fed up of the level of customer service in PC World, Curry's and Comet. The chaps and chappesses we met today seemed like genuine geeks, recognising the tech publications they were chatting to. Whether this positive first impression will be borne out as you lot steam through the doors from Saturday remains to be seen. Still, if Best Buy's only effect is to make the folks at DSGi buck their ideas up a bit, that'll be a good thing, we reckon.

We're not going to suggest Best Buy is the saviour of technology retail, in terms of customer service or prices. We're simply going to show you around the store with our photo tour, and invite your thoughts in the comments. Click continue to have a look around the Thurrock branch, and let us know if you plan to visit Best Buy -- and if you do, let us know how it went.

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The store is a brightly-lit cavernous space. It doesn't look radically different from rivals, but then it wouldn't. It's still a shop. Let's take a closer look.
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There are several mock-up rooms showcasing different aspects of home entertainment, including a 3D room showing both active and passive sets. Here we see just some of the range of manufacturers included in the audio demo room.
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Here's the gaming pod. When age-restricted games are being played, a member of staff will be on the door keeping out the ankle-biters.
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The most obvious difference with other retailers is the wider range of products, including content as well as players. Here are some CDs -- remember those?
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Blu-rays and DVDs are on sale too, as well as games.
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Many items are stacked high around the walls.
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You can even get a kitchen.
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Kitchens and other appliances can be delivered, with next day, time-slot and installation options.
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Phone operating systems are explained simply.
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Many items can be tried out in-store, like these high-end headphones.
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Many stands include explanations of what you're buying, such as this explanation of the scintillating world of memory cards.
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The place is packed with accessories as well as appliances and devices, from peripherals to specialist bags and cases, such as this exercise kit.
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GPS gear should ensure you don't get lost in the wilds of Essex.
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The Crave team tends towards the hirsute. But if you prefer a neat beard or none at all, Best Buy has you covered. Honestly, how can there be that many different kinds of shaver?
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Kiosks give access to the UK Best Buy Web site.
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As we enter this section of blonde wood and little illuminated fruit, a soothing sense of self-importance descends... yes, it's the Apple Genius Bar. Every Best Buy will have one.
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Every Best Buy store also gets its own Genius. Here we see a Genius at work, perhaps solving complex equations, editing a short film, or wondering why her iPhone battery has died again despite being fully charged just this morning.
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A whole section of the shop is dedicated to eco-friendly products, from solar chargers to electrical bikes and scooters.
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Best Buy is even selling the Tesla Roadster. You can just see the cable coming out of the back on the right, which is plugged into a wall socket. That still muddles our noodle every time we see it.
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If you have a problem, and no-one else can help you, maybe you can hire... the Geek Squad. Geek Squad members are on hand to help in-store, or can offer their services on your gadgets and gizmos. What's been your experience of the Geek Squad in their two years in the UK? Tell us your hopes for Best Buy in the comments, and let us know if you're planning to be at the launch this weekend.

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