04-18-2003, 08:33 AM
After years of a mixed relationship with the US retailer, Apple will try selling its full product line in a limited number of Best Buy stores, each staffed with Apple employees to help boost sales.
Sources said that the programs are planned for the St. Louis and Philadelphia markets, where Apple has already begun hiring Apple Solutions Consultants. ASCs are retail representatives charged with working with the stores to sell Apple's products, maintaining Apple's display, and training the stores' sales staff.
An insider cautioned that the contract has not yet been signed. However, the two companies are expected to come to an agreement soon.
The news comes amid reports that Apple will test a similar program in Canada's Future Shop stores, beginning in Toronto. Future Shop, Canada's largest consumer electronics retailer, is owned by Best Buy. Sources said there are plans to expand that program in late summer.
For the past two years, Apple has pushed this type of retail effort in CompUSA stores, and has expanded the program to locations nationwide as it has seen sales increase. Apple continues to expand its CompUSA program, hiring new employees to staff stores, and has said that it would try similar programs with other channel partners.
The results at the Best Buy and Future Shop test locations will not only determine Apple's involvement there, but also the companies' future relationships. Apple has had a rocky relationship with Best Buy over the years, and the retailer currently sells only Apple's iPod for Windows. Best Buy dropped sales of the fruit-flavored iMac due to Apple's demand that it stock an equal selection of all five colors, leading to inventory issues.
A senior Best Buy source said that the retailer has been hesitant to jump back into stocking Apple products, but has also been attracted by the high sales of some of Apple's recent releases.