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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Samsung Will Open Mini-Stores Inside 1,400 Best Buys

Samsung Electronics is giving Apple some of its own medicine. The company will set up mini-stores this summer inside Best Buys across the United States.

Samsung on Thursday said it would open 1,400 of the stores by the end of June. Called a Samsung Experience Shop, each store will be an entire section at Best Buy devoted to showcasing Samsung smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops, televisions and accessories. It will also include customer support for Samsung products, similar to the Genius Bar at Apple stores.

Samsung is the biggest maker of phones in the world. But Apple’s iPhone is still the top-selling mobile device in the United States.

Nonetheless, Samsung says the launch of its Best Buy stores is not about competing with Apple, but rather to provide consumers with what they want. “At the heart of who we are, this is about responding to consumer needs and requests and ensure they’re delighted and empowered and happy with their choice of Samsung as a brand,” Ketrina Dunagan, vice president for retail marketing, said in an interview.

Apple has about 400 bricks-and-mortar retail stores around the world. Apple also has mini-stores in Best Buy locations and partnerships with other big retailers like Walmart and Target; its iPhones and iPads are prominently displayed in carriers’ retail stores.

Samsung’s devices, too, are heavily promoted with big signs and booths inside carriers’ stores, and in July, the company opened a retail store in Vancouver. It remains to be seen whether the company will continue to roll out its own stores. Ms. Dunagan said opening stores inside Best Buys was a quicker way to broaden the company’s footprint in retail.

Other electronics makers like HTC, Motorola and Research In Motion do not have as strong a retail presence, and they mostly rely on wireless carriers selling their phones.

Samsung has had a partnership with Best Buy for a long time. The main difference now is that instead of having its products scattered throughout Best Buy stores, they will all be in one place. In the mini-stores, Best Buy employees will be trained to educate shoppers on Samsung devices and walk them through purchase and activation. In stores with more space, there will be demonstrations showing how Samsung devices can share content across multiple screens. In the customer support section, shoppers can ask Best Buy employees what they can do when something goes wrong with a Samsung device, as when the screen breaks.

Of course, Samsung must pay Best Buy to put its products in the spotlight in so many stores. Ms. Dunagan declined to comment on how much because the details of the partnership are confidential.