Store of the Future: Shop at Best Buy, Buy at Amazon?

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Includes: AMZN, BBY
by: Frank Barnako

The "Store of the Future" is on exhibit this week in New York at a conference of the National Retail Federation.  Unfortunately, the "Store of the Present" is what I found in Reston, Va., near my home yesterday. 

I went there to buy two Sony multi-disc CD changers.  One for the family room, one for the living room. At the brick-and-mortar Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), there was one boxed unit.  I wanted two.  Absent any sales help, I rummaged around the stocking shelves below the displays, but turned up nothing else.  Screw it!  Walked out.

Drove home, went online to Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), found the unit, and for $10 less. Ordered two, got free shipping, and avoided sales tax.

In New York, at the "Future" store, the NRF is hosting a number of vendors including Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) showing how technology can improve operations.  Steve Ballmer did a keynote about “empowering” consumers with access to product information online. SAP and Oracle are also at the show with point of sale and customer management systems. (Don’t you love being ‘managed’ well?) 

Most of the "progress" being promised, of course, will come from there being fewer people on the payroll, and probably less-educated or product-trained sales help. Dealerscope magazine, reporting on the show, said retailers are being shown a "vision ... to connect in-store shopping with the online world in a way that is new, entertaining - and completely relevant."

Sound just like what I did.  Went shopping, in the store, and connected with the online world.  But, I don't think that's what they meant to happen.

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