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.
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.
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.
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.