- Best Buy and Sears both sell appliances and electronics like TVs, smart-home devices, and speaker systems.
- If Sears were to close all of its stores, Best Buy would be in a good position to capture sales, analysts say, because of the overlap in the products the stores sell.
- We visited both stores and found that besides the size of the electronics departments, Best Buy offered better prices, higher-quality products, and a better shopping experience overall.
Best Buy may be one of the biggest winners if Sears closes its stores, in part because of the retailers’ overlap in appliances and consumer electronics. While appliances are still one of the top categories for Sears, making up an estimated $US3.5 billion of Sears’ sales, consumer electronics are an $US850 million business for the retailer, according to UBS analysis.
According to the Associated Press, in 2014, Sears changed its electronics department’s focus from products like TVs to “connected living” products in fitness, home services, appliances, and gadgets. But in March, it decided to refocus on consumer electronics in one-third of its stores again.
Though the company is expanding its electronics department, it isn’t investing nearly as much as Best Buy in its overall store upkeep. USA Today reported that Sears spent just 91 cents per square foot in capital expenditures in its most recent fiscal year, while Best Buy invested $US15.36 per square foot in the same period, according to research by the Susquehanna International Group.
When we visited one of the Sears locations that carried electronics, the store seemed to be struggling. A lot of the shelves were empty, and much of what was on shelves felt dated, including things like boomboxes designed for CDs and cassettes or speakers that can connect to an iPhone 4.
Unlike Sears, which is struggling to stay afloat, Best Buy reported 7.1% same-store sales growth in the first quarter of 2018 and plans to open a new store for the first time in seven years. Sears, on the other hand, reported a 13.4% decline in same-store sales in its most recent quarter. When we visited, Best Buy had more of a focus on new technology like smart-home devices. The displays were also more appealing, and the prices were lower on products like TVs, headphones, and phone chargers.
While the selection itself was obviously bigger at Best Buy, we compared the two stores’ electronics selection based on the overall shopping experience. See how they stack up:
My first stop was Sears in Yonkers, New York. The massive department store spanned three floors.
It took me a while to find the electronics department. It was shoved into a corner on the third floor, surrounded by vacuums and microwaves.
The selection of TVs was limited. There were two walls of TVs that were all similar in size and price.
A few TVs were marked as clearance, but one was on the floor, and the wall was bare.
Microwaves and other appliances were in the middle of the floor, spilling over from the neighbouring appliances display.
There were a few speakers to choose from …
… but there were more boomboxes for CDs, radio, and cassettes.
A lot of the technology felt dated.
There were a few cell phones for sale …
… but there were a lot more landline phones to choose from.
The DVD section only had a handful of titles, and most of them were at least a few years old, if not more.
There were a few more current products, like the Amazon Echo and Ring home-security system, but there wasn’t a ton to choose from.
The whole section was a bit of a mess.
A lot of merchandise appeared to be out of stock.
Overall, the electronics department at Sears was depressing.
I visited Best Buy next, and the experience was completely different.
I knew the selection would be bigger at Best Buy, but the way it was displayed was a lot more appealing than at Sears. It was a lot more inviting of a space to shop in. The prices on TVs were lower at Best Buy. Most TVs cost about $US1,000 at Sears, but there were large TVs for well under that at Best Buy.
Instead of boomboxes, there were a ton of brand-new speakers with features like built-in Google Assistant.
Instead of just having one type of cell phone, there was a pretty big selection to choose from.
The store had a whole department for music and DVDs, and it included movies that were just released on DVD, like “Black Panther.”
Products that seemed neglected at Sears were highlighted at Best Buy. The home-security and smart-home products were set up in the front of the store, and they were laid out so you could actually see the products instead of being on a shelf near the floor.
Everything was much more organised at Best Buy. The stores carried mostly the same brands of headphones, but everything was around $US5 cheaper at Best Buy.
To be fair, Best Buy is a store devoted to electronics, while these products only make up one department at Sears. Still, Best Buy was the clear winner.
What Best Buy carried was more modern, less expensive, and displayed more cleaning, creating a better shopping experience. Sears was depressing, with empty shelves and outdated products taking up most of the space.
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