Best Buy Plans Further Expansion Outside North America

U.S. home electronics retailer Best Buy, which last month opened its first store outside North America, in Shanghai, plans a foray into other markets this year, the head of its overseas business said on Thursday.

The Shanghai store has made a better-than-expected start, Robert Willett, Chief Executive of Best Buy International, told a news conference, although the company gave no sales figures or targets.

"The performance of the store has exceeded our expectations very, very significantly. When we look back in 12 months' time, this store will be in the top-10 inside of our organization," he said.

Regarding other overseas plans, Willett said: "During the course of this year we will see the start of other ventures in other countries ... We're determined to become an international player."

He ruled out entering Japan in the near term, however, saying the market was too competitive.

"We've used external people to help make assessments, and those assessments, combined with our own experiences, have enabled us to put a plan together that broadly looks at entry into different countries over the next five to six years," Willett said.

Best Buy Vice Chairman Allen Lenzmeier said in November that the company had no plans to open stores in India and Latin America, in response to market talk it was looking at those areas. He did not comment on possible plans in those areas when asked about them on Thursday.

The U.S. retail giant has 1,100 stores in North America, and Lenzmeier said in November that the company planned to open two to four stores in the coming 12 months in China, a market it expects to be generating about $100 billion in annual consumer electronics sales by 2010.

A release issued by the company at Thursday's news conference, however, reiterated a statement in November that it would open one or two new stores in China in the next 12 to 18 months.

"This is going to be the biggest economy in the world in 15 to 20 years. There's no reason why this business isn't even bigger than in the U.S.--I believe it will be," Willett said.

Willett attributed the success to its business model, which pays sales personnel on a non-commission basis to guarantee unbiased advice.