Best Buy jumps into HME retail

Friday, December 31, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - In what is perhaps another attempt at HME superstore success, Best Buy Co., the nation’s largest merchant of consumer electronics, in 2005 plans to open a new retail concept store that incorporates health, wellness and technology.

Best Buy’s new entity, Eq-Life, will begin as an 18,000-square-foot test store located outside of Minneapolis featuring a plethora of health and wellness items that include diabetes supplies, health monitors, nutritionals and exercise equipment. The retailer will also try to join Best Buy’s consumer technology expertise with the health-related product lines by offering electronics, such as MP3 players and DVDs, that complement the store’s concept.

“A customer may come to Eq-Life because they or a family member has diabetes and want more information,” said Sue Lee, Eq-Life’s spokesperson. “Here you will be able to find digital and print educational resources as well as experts who can talk to you about things from diet to nutritional supplements to exercise programs.”

To lend credibility to the concept, Eq-Life and Best Buy have partnered with Park Nicollet Health Services and PrairieStone Pharmacy. These strategic partners will offer clinical services and advice, including special events and workshops, and run a full pharmacy on site.

“We are blending Best Buy’s knowledge and expertise in retailing and technology with the knowledge of some of the most innovative health and wellness experts in the industry,” said Lee.

The question that has plagued HME superstores of the past, however, is whether enough consumers will be drawn to big box stores for medical needs. Eq-Life believes they will based on the variety of product categories it offers under one roof will attract customers.

“Traditionally, these customers might have had to go to a department store, a sporting goods store, a pharmacy and a vitamin store to get everything they need,” said Lee. “Part of our goal is to simplify this so there is one place that integrates all these products.”

Eq-Life will appeal to both men and women, but its primary focus is women age 35 and older, “many of who work outside the home and are already interested in health and wellness,” said Lee.

Lee would not comment whether Eq-Life is primed to move into more markets and no official opening has been announced for the Minneapolis store.

“Right now we are just testing the concept, and the Twin Cities is a tremendous place for this particular type of store,” said Lee. ”We are excited to learn more from our findings.”