By KRIS HUDSON
Wall St. Journal
August 13, 2007
RICHFIELD, Minn. -- Best Buy Co. intends to unveil a line of accessory bags and cases designed by Liz Claiborne Inc. as part of the electronics retailer's push to better serve female shoppers.
Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy will debut the products -- including laptop cases, iPod covers and camera cases -- in 250 of its more than 850 U.S. stores on October 21. Patterns will repeat across the product line, allowing shoppers to purchase matching collections of bags as they would in matching accessories to a purse's colors.
"Liz has been a great partner of ours in testing," said Julie Gilbert, Best Buy's senior vice president of training and its Win with Women program for catering to female shoppers and employees. "It's a very prominent brand with wide appeal. Where you'll see us go is into other labels that you would typically see as you walk down Fifth Avenue."
Stores that carry the Liz Claiborne items will display them in a section spanning 12 feet on average.
A spokeswoman for Liz Claiborne, based in New York, referred questions on the as-yet-unannounced product line to Best Buy.
The accessory bags are the latest effort by Best Buy, the largest U.S. electronics retailer, to lure female shoppers. Earlier this year, Best Buy unveiled a line of contemporary home-theater furniture designed by Maria Yee Inc., a lifestyle design company. Under Ms. Gilbert, the retailer has launched a women's leadership forum aimed at recruiting and retaining female employees.
In the past year, Best Buy's ranks of female employees has grown to 29,800 from 23,000 and its turnover among female employees has declined by 5.7%, Ms. Gilbert says. All told, the percentage of female employees in Best Buy's U.S. workforce has risen to 27% from 26% in the past four years.
In explaining the drive to better cater to female shoppers, Best Buy executives point to Consumer Electronics Association data indicating that women account for more than half of U.S. spending on consumer electronics annually, and they "influence" roughly 90% of electronics purchases.
"I think, ultimately, in this industry she will be the dominant consumer," Best Buy chief executive Brad Anderson said in an interview. "With (women) moving from influencer to chooser, that has fundamentally changed our products."
Best Buy experimented a few years ago with opening an electronics store in Chicago aimed specifically at female shoppers. That store, called Studio D, eventually closed as Best Buy opted to reflect elements of its female-centric merchandising and marketing in all of its stores rather than launching a new chain.