Best Buy's Diamond as Big as the Ritz
Now on the prowl for "angel" customers, Anderson hired ESI Design to create a couple of touchy-feely boutique research centers so he could get to know how his customers think.
Incidentally, ESI stands for Edwin Schlossberg Inc., aka Mr. Caroline Kennedy.
The Premise—A Kind of Skunk Works
The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works calls itself a company of inventors, "not satisfied unless we devise a new solution—something smarter, something better." It was the Skunk Works that came up with the fastest jet plane in the world, the amazing SR-71 Blackbird that replaced the U2 as America's spy in the sky.
One equivalent of the Skunk Works in retailing is Best Buy's boutique operations in the Chicago area:
- studio d is an intimate electronics store in Naperville that operates under the belief that it is women who drive the sales of high-tech merchandise. It's stocked primarily with a limited inventory of digital cameras and notebook PCs and offers one-on-one classes in photo editing, scrapbooking and picture taking. Dawn Bryant, Best Buy spokesperson, said the chain is creating "an experiential environment around preserving memories." Ultimately, it is hoped that the information gleaned at studio d will help Best Buy understand how women relate to high-tech products and that the lessons learned will translate into displays and sales techniques that can be leveraged across its big box stores nationwide.
- Escape is studio d with testosterone, created for young male video gamers. This is the customer subset that NPD Techworld analyst Stephen Baker says is obsessed with what is new and cool and spends big bucks to acquire it. At Escape, these armchair 007s and Dale Earnhardts can try out the new gadgetry before buying it.
This is not cheap research. ESI, the design firm of Ed Schlossberg--a protégé of Buckminster Fuller who used to hang out with artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and composer John Cage--has very impressive credentials. Included on his list of accomplishments are Sony Plaza, Unser Racing Museum, Ellis Island's American Family Immigration History Center and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.