YOU and Best Buy, Microsoft and Local Solution Providers

Ever since the Best Buy and Geek Squad union in 2000, Best Buy has been pushing further into being more than just an electronics retailer but also serving the needs of small businesses with SERVICE and products.
I never realized the urgency and importance of this plan until reading Redmond Channel Partner Online which covered a presentation at a Bear Stearns retail conference in New York a few months ago. Tom Healy, the executive vice president of Best Buy for Business, summed up Best Buy Co. Inc.’s grand ambition in a single sentence – “We’d like to change the way that small businesses buy IT”.
Ever since dirt was created, small businesses have bought IT solutions from their friendly local reseller or electronics store and installed it themselves. Hardware vendors including Dell, Gateway, IBM and of course HP also provide more than products but integration services through 3rd party or direct. The next wave of service is going to be from Best Buy and CDW (CDW’s push is not new) and possibly other national hardware chains that build up service areas.
Redmond Channel Partner writes Asked during that same March presentation which major competitors Best Buy planned to wrest market share from, Healy replied: “The only ones offering a real service offering or a complete solution are value-added resellers. There are some 90,000 of them throughout the United States. It’s about as fragmented as any market can become, particularly with the size revenue market it is.”
Best Buy clearly isn’t aiming to put VARs out of business. Instead, the goal appears to be helping the company sustain the kind of growth Wall Street demands. Being aware of those plans can help small business resellers and solution providers to adjust, partner or fight for turf.
Best Buy for Business has been a pilot program for the last few years, but now the company is aggressively rolling out a full-scale initiative. Currently, about 115 of Best Buy’s stores offer the SMB services program, and Best Buy plans to double that number this year. Eventually, the company hopes to run the program in every store. Meanwhile, the company continues on an expansion tear that has it approaching the 1,000-store mark.

Best Buy is also the first (so far the only I think) national retailer to have Microsoft Gold Certified Partner status. This means that its local techs know (or will know as more and more are trained) a wide array of Microsoft products and are recognized by Microsoft and their peers as such.
So where will you get technology support?
Best Buy? Local independent solution provider? Your PC hardware vendor?
There’s pros and cons to each one:
Best Buy has, in one place a wide range of products (low cost) and staff on site (again in one place) to serve you. However, there might be an issue with long term, personal support. You might not be able to speak with “Sally Jentz” who knows your business each time.
Your local solution provider is often going to be there for the long haul and will know your business inside and out. They grow with your business. Only downside is to make sure you get a GOOD solution provider – a bad one can be a huge time and money waster.
Your local PC vendor can provide good service, especially for a specific task. You buy 10 Dell PCs, I’m sure Dell can network them for you. However, for a LONG term relationships they might not be the best bet. Also, keep in mind they are going to want you to buy from them.
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