Yesterday afternoon, Robert Scoble posted something to his Google+ account that got a lot of people talking. While noting the information he was relaying was simply a rumor, he mentioned that Best Buy was renting out 6,000 sq. ft. of space per store to Google. The purpose, according to Scoble’s source, is for Glass.
The validity of this claim is clearly in question, but Scoble makes no overtures about it being truthful or even possible. It was a rumor, heard by a guy who is privy to a lot of information. We’ll only really know it’s true when we see a large Google presence inside of Best Buy locations, and hopefully we will. It makes perfect sense, and keeps Google paced with its contemporaries.
Best Buy, technology landlord
But 6,000 sq. ft. worth of presence? That’s a big footprint. For the fiscal year 2013, Best Buy is operating 1990 stores, which average 28,032 sq. ft. of retail space. Their revenue per square foot is roughly $800, compared to their peak of $906/sq. ft. in 2010, and $872/sq. ft. in 2012.
The point is that Best Buy is losing money, and quite a bit of it. While solid rental income is a tourniquet for the bleeding caused largely by Amazon and other online retailers, turning Best Buy stores into flea markets for high tech may be their only choice. With the Apple presence in Best Buy locations, you have a branded showcase for products, nothing more. Best Buy employees sell the merchandise, and benefit from the panache a looming Apple logo provides.
Samsung and Microsoft
Similar sentiment can be made for the slick, new Samsung experience shops that are housed within Best Buy, and the coming Windows presence which should mimic its predecessors. Both are shiny, new updates for the Best Buy bazaar which should attract consumers, as well as give Best Buy needed revenue.
Having a retail presence staffed by (alleged) experts about the products showcased is a boon for both parties involved, as well as consumers. Best Buy gets a free facelift, and companies that otherwise wouldn’t will have a vague retail presence. This brings us to the shiny little diamond in the Best Buy rough: that odd little endcap of Chromebooks.
Google’s terrible retail experience
Rarely stocked, minimally staffed, and largely ignored by Best Buy employees, the Google retail experience leaves a lot to be desired. Google is much more than two Chromebooks, and worth a lot more attention than one “expert” hovering near a few computers they try to educate you on, but can’t offer you due to non-existent stock.
Turning Best Buy stores into flea markets for high tech may be their only choice.
But is Google ready to leap from 6 sq. ft. to 6,000? That’s not only doubtful, it’s nearly impossible. The Samsung experience shops are roughly 450-500 sq. ft., and the Windows experience shops are said to be between 1,500-2,000 sq. ft. The Apple presence varies, but is roughly the size of the Samsung shops, with a similar presence towards the center of the store.
If you’ve ever been to a Best Buy with a Samsung shop, the experience is noticeable. A 500 sq. ft. presence often smack in the middle of the store is more than adequate. The Windows shop would occupy about four times that space, and require a healthy shifting of existing merchandise within the store, if not some consolidation and revisiting corporate merchandising standards.
So is 6,000 sq. ft. even possible? That’s literally 20% of the floor space for Best Buy stores, or about the size of the TV section and all the peripherals for it. The Samsung Experience shop required quite a bit of rearranging, and the Windows stores promise to be an even bigger headache for the individual stores. Something at 6,000 sq. ft. would mean a massive shift in the way Best Buy does business, and probably greatly reduce the variety they can offer.
To put a 6,000 sq. ft. Google-in-Best-Buy shop into perspective, the average size of an Apple store is 8,400 sq. ft. To then put Scoble’s post into perspective, this retail presence for Google is supposed to be dedicated to Glass. I can’t say the Glass booth at I/O this year was even 6,000 sq. ft., and that was with plenty of lounging room and a 360-degree Glass counter — and 5,000-plus tech enthusiasts there for a very Google-y purpose.
Google Glass needs Best Buy
I will humbly acknowledge that Glass needs to be experienced before judgement is levied, so a hub for Glass activity is absolutely needed. Between fitting and sizing — then helping you get started on your cyborg way — Google will need to make sure Glass is a customized experience, staffed by true experts.
With a growing list of hardware, and a lot of great products and services to show off, a physical Play Store in Best Buy is a winning concept.
It would seem that 6,000 sq. ft. is simply too large for a Best Buy store, and any presence specific to Glass is wasted space for Google. Between Nexus devices, Google Play Edition phones, Chromebooks, the Chromecast, and accessories — there is more than enough for a nice little home inside Best Buy. Assuming Google would also want to take advantage of the space for things like educating people about Fiber or Project Loon, you have a very well-rounded experience.
Luckily, Best Buy is readily renting space to companies like Google. I’ll go out on the limb with a treehouse built on it to say 6,000 sq. ft. is not going to happen, but Best Buy is a logical choice for Google to establish themselves. We have heard those rumblings of Google opening a retail space in select cities, but this route gives them a much broader audience. If Google really intends for Glass (or any of their products) to catch on, a physical presence is a great idea.
With a growing list of hardware, and a lot of great products and services to show off, a physical Play Store in Best Buy is a winning concept. Of course, Google has a large set of issues to hurdle themselves over, but the motivation is there. Whereas they may have wanted to be involved in brick-and-mortar retail at some point, a push for widespread Glass use insists on there being something — something — for users of all kinds of Google products and services to migrate to.
But 6,000 sq. ft. of something? I’d say 600 sq. ft. sounds more reasonable.