Hawaii retailers ready
to take on new Best Buy

By Russ Lynch

With yet another "big box" retailer announcing its entry to the Hawaii market, established local retailers say they can still cut it even though many Hawaii consumers believe big names mean better deals.


Best Buy Co., a nationwide consumer electronics retailer that competes with Circuit City and similar retailers, said yesterday it will open a 45,000-square-foot store in Pearl City next spring.

That will mean 125 new local jobs and another competitor seeking island consumers to buy television sets, computers, digital cameras, music and video equipment and a wide range of other products.

Maybe so, said Shawn Boyd, sales manager of Video Life, a small store in Kakaako that sells stereo gear, televisions, digital cameras and all kinds of related products.

But in the end more small local stores will go out of business because of big guys coming into town -- and it will be largely because of local residents' misplaced faith in big names from out of town, Boyd said.

"When Circuit City came to town we thought it was not a big deal. Most of our customers are referrals from friends. They only problem they give us is that a lot of people have no faith on their local merchants," Boyd said.

People pay too much at big stores and are often sold extra service deals, such as three-year repair contracts, he said.

Shirokiya may have spent its life in Hawaii as a Japan-owned business but it has good reason to consider itself local, said Walter Watanabe, general manager.

Last year, the store was purchased by its local management.

The Ala Moana store, which sells consumer electronics, has been there 43 years, he said.

"Our customers are local customers and we try to give them the best service," he said. "What we like to have is the local people dealing with their local stores."

Minnesota-headquartered Best Buy has been shopping for its first Hawaii location since fall and has leased a location at Kamehameha Highway and Acacia Road, near Home Depot.

The fast-growing company has 494 stores in 44 states.

One of the features of Best Buy's operations is that its sales personnel are not paid commissions, said Connie Molby, a corporate spokes-woman at the company's Eden Prairie, Minn., headquarters. That means their priority is seeing that customers get what they want or need, she said.

"We just really want to provide the area with affordable consumer electronics and entertainment products in an easy and fun way," Molby said. There will be a lot of interactive ways for potential buyers to get to know products, she said.

Best Buy subsidiaries operate Sam Goody and Suncoast Motion Pictures stores in the islands.

At a glance

Headquarters: Eden Prairie, Minn.
Stores: 494 in 44 states
Ticker: BBY
Web site:
CEO: Richard M. Schulze
Employees: 90,000

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