Best Buy To Up Competition Against Dell

Products from HP, Lenovo, and others geared for business will carry a "Professional Series" label.
Best Buy on Friday said it plans to offer business computers and other hardware at all of its 863 stores nationwide, a move that could make the retail company a stronger competitor against Dell in the small business market.

Best Buy expects to have business-targeted products in most of its stores by Christmas, with all stores stocked by the end of the company's fiscal year, which ends February 2008, said Jeff Dudash, a spokesman for the retailer. The products will include PC desktops and notebooks, networking equipment, storage hardware from companies such as Iomega, printers, global positioning systems, and digital cameras.

Products geared for business will carry a "Professional Series" label. Each store will have dedicated staff to serve business customers. "There will be enough (people) to handle customers during the prime business hours," Dudash said. Some stores will have service people available to install equipment and provide support. Others will use contractors.

Best Buy has had a kiosk and staff dedicated to business customers for about three years in 225 stores. The company also has had a direct sales force of about 100 people scattered in 19 U.S. markets, most of them major cities. Dudash said direct salespeople target companies of less than 1,000 employees.

Best Buy doesn't publicly report separate numbers for business and consumer sales. Dudash, however, said the company estimates that it has a half of a percent of what Best Buy estimates is a $100 billion annual market.

Best Buy is a reseller for a number of computer makers, such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. But while the expansion puts the company in a better position to steal customers from Dell, it remains to be seen whether Best Buy can have any impact on the U.S. market leader.

Dudash said Best Buy's advantages revolve around convenience. "If you need a product right now, you can drive down the street, pick it up, and drive home," he said. Best Buy also gives you the opportunity to see and touch the product.

Dell, which Gartner says accounted for nearly 28% of all PC sales in the U.S. in the first quarter, launched in July a new small-business line of notebook computers, desktops PCs, and services designed for companies with one to 25 employees. The company's Vostro laptops start at $449 and the desktops start at $319.

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