As Carphone Warehouse in Ireland steadily expands its remit to becoming a computer and broadband specialist, the company’s chief executive Stephen Mackarel (pictured) told siliconrepublic.com that work is in progress to bring Best Buy electronics stores to a number of locations across Ireland.
Best Buy, which has 22pc of the US computing retail market, last month acquired a 50pc stake in the Carphone Warehouse chain of stores across Ireland and the UK, and confirmed plans to roll out across Europe.
Mackarel explained that plans to bring the Best Buy brand into Ireland are a “work in progress” and he is keen to see the large electronics stores become a regular fixture on the Irish retail landscape.
“Three years ago I was acquiring store space of around 50sq m, and lately 100sq m. When we bring in the Best Buy brand into Ireland, we will be looking for store space of 4,000sq m to sell everything from computers to plasma TVs.”
Asked if the Carphone Warehouse brand will be subsumed into the Best Buy brand, Mackarel said this is a decision which has yet to be taken.
In the meantime he said, Carphone Warehouse will operate as usual, with the only major difference being an inexorable move into the broadband and notebook PC market.
“Today the laptop is the new mobile phone. Everyone wants their own PC,” Mackarel said, pointing to the forthcoming range of Asus EEE PCs that will be available from this week.
Carphone Warehouse will be selling the 4GB version with Windows XP for €349, compared to €379 in the Laptop Shop without XP. It will also do a bundled offer with the 3 bill-pay modem.
The EEE PC will be available initially in black and then in four weeks time Carphone Warehouse will have it in pink and white.
“The Best Buy link-up has given us access to serious purchasing power and a different array of technologies and products. The company is Sony’s largest customer worldwide, to give you an idea.”
Mackarel said he is transitioning Carphone Warehouse from being a mobile specialist to also being a broadband specialist capable of giving consumers impartial advice on a variety of packages and products.
“When we started off in the mobile space, it was a confusing marketplace. People didn’t understand handsets or tariffs or the terminology. They just wanted the best price and deal that suited them.
“We now want to apply the same template to broadband. A lot of people are confused, some are asking what exactly does 4Mbps mean? We will work with them to help cut through the jargon and select from between 12 and 14 different providers.
“Our staff will be trained to work with customers and go through what’s best for them and what they can afford. We will look at where they are living and what’s available on their exchange. What will they want it for? For downloading videos or just for email and web browsing? Do you want it just at home or on the move?”
Mackarel said he will begin by selling laptop computers like the Asus EEE, before moving into the market for accessories like Wi-Fi products.
“Years ago, there was one phone in most houses and people had to queue to get their turn. If you said to someone then that everyone in a decade’s time would have their own mobile phone, you would have been laughed at.
“Well guess what, that time is now. Now we’re moving to a time where everyone will have their own PC. The younger generation want their own private computers and view laptops as personal devices like their mobile phones. We’re looking at a situation where not only will every house want their own broadband connection but most family members will want their own PC.
“What happened with mobile will happen with broadband,” Mackarel added.
He also said a key development that will occur alongside the introduction of the Asus EEE will be the introduction of the Geek Squad services to Irish market.
The Geek Squad are a technology support business owned by Best Buy and enable consumers with any kind of technology problem, whether it’s a computer or a router, to find help instantly. “It will be a virtual PC department for every store and every home.”
He said the plan is to start with in-store support, before making the Geek Squad fully available to consumers.
The initial plan for the Best Buy stores in Ireland is to start with possibly four stores. “These will be hugely impressive stores that will be 4,000sq m and will revolutionise the electronics retail market in Ireland with a non-pressurised selling environment and well-trained sales consultants.”
By John Kennedy