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Testing the waters with area shoppers page 2
Central Park a test kitchen for retailers

 The Cheesecake Factory desserts are available at the new Barnes & Noble store in the Central Park business district. The new bookstore - in the former Borders location - opened today, Nov. 7, 2012. (Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star) ------ 2COL COLOR
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Date published: 11/10/2012

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As a result the company decided to try out the new name at the Central Park store. Watkins said the name comes from the fact that many shoppers say they go to Christmas Tree Shops to buy "this and that." She said the company will make future naming decisions based in part on how Fredericksburg-area residents react to the store.

Best Buy has been in Central Park for more than 15 years, but over the past five weeks construction crews have transformed the store to give it an entirely new feel. The results will be shown off today with a "grand re-opening" event that will feature Captain America and allow early birds to get a free breakfast and Best Buy gift cards.

As at Barnes & Noble, the new store features an open layout, clear directional signs and low shelves that allow shoppers to see the whole store from the front. Skylights have been added, and the emphasis is on wireless devices and customer service. In the middle of the store is a "Solution Central" kiosk where Best Buy workers will help customers troubleshoot and get the most out of their electronic devices. It's meant to promote a hands-on, interactive shopping experience.

The store remained opened throughout the transformation, said Michael Setti, a Best Buy manager who oversees the mobile-products section. Workers came at the end of regular business hours and left when the store reopened in the morning.

The Central Park store is one of about 50 in the U.S. that Best Buy has converted this year as it seeks to turn itself around amid stiff competition from the likes of Amazon and Walmart. More conversions are planned next year. The turnaround plan has also involved closing some stores, including the one in Cosner's Corner, and opening more smaller Best Buy Mobile stores.

Best Buy officials won't say what metrics they used to evaluate which stores to convert to the new concept. Several other Best Buy stores in Northern Virginia have been converted. The one in Stafford Marketplace has not.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com


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