- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2005

Best Buy has opened the doors to two new store-within-a-store concepts at some of its area locations to appeal directly to home-theater enthusiasts and small-business owners.

The consumer electronics retailer debuted its “Magnolia Home Theater” and “Best Buy for Business” last week in 45 stores in 12 markets, including the District, Boston, Denver, New York and Phoenix.

Magnolia Home Theater — located at the Best Buy stores in Annapolis, Fairfax, Springfield and Woodbridge, Va. — is named after Seattle-based Magnolia Audio Video, a high-end retailer Best Buy bought in 2000.

The 3,000-square-foot designated area inside the store is a “completely different world and atmosphere” from the hustle and bustle of the electronics superstore, said George DeSesso, Magnolia Home Theater area manager.

The soundproof demonstration rooms offer high-end video and audio home theater products from brands such as Pioneer Elite, Fujitsu, MartinLogan and Stewart Filmscreen. Product prices can range from $500 to $50,000.

The Best Buy boutiques also offer installation services and about 15 specially trained employees to help shoppers customize their home-theater systems.

“Best Buy for Business” opened in the retailer’s Annapolis, Fairfax and Woodbridge stores.

This store within a store, which varies in size, provides business services for companies with up to 20 employees. It includes a wider selection of technology products including servers and professional notebooks, gives advice and offers around-the-clock technical support from Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

Best Buy also will help small businesses network with exclusive events with business leaders, professional groups and the Small Business Administration.

Perking up

Dunkin’ Donuts plans to open 150 more locations in the District and Baltimore area by 2008.

The coffee and doughnut giant says its hot coffee sales are fueling Dunkin’ Brands Inc.’s expansion plans, which include other key markets such as Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. The company sells nearly 1 billion cups of coffee a year in the United States.

Dunkin’ Donuts has about 170 stores in the Washington-Baltimore area. They include stand-alone locations and Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins combination stores.

Mark Belanger, director of franchise services, says there is plenty of room for growth in this area.

“We’re ramping up efforts in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area because there’s a strong demand for our product here,” Mr. Belanger said.

The company is looking for franchisees who will open five or more stores, which typically require 1,800 square feet of space and between 20 and 25 employees.

Retail rummage

Online sales, including travel purchases, are expected to increase 22 percent next year to $172.4 billion, according to a recent report from Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, and Forrester Research, a technology research firm. The report, which is based on information from 137 retailers, said total online sales for 2004 rose 23.8 percent to $141.1 billion.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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