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Best Buy Co., Inc. (BBY), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT), Target Corporation (TGT): Suddenly, Everyone Loves Showrooming

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It was only two years ago that showrooming was viewed as the cause of Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY)‘s  impending death. Consumers were using the electronics superstore as a means of putting their hands on gadgets before turning around and buying the products from

As the retailer most prominently brought to its knees by the phenomenon, Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) was also among the first to embrace it. CEO Hubert Joly said, “Once customers are in our stores, they’re ours to lose.” The consumer-electronics leader needed to create an in-store experience that would blunt the desire of the customer to buy based on price alone.

Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY)

How much that hand-holding has worked is still up in the air, but sales last quarter were basically flat, as comps came close to being unchanged compared to being down more than 3% in the year-ago period. And management believes that was largely a result of store resets where they opened up new Samsung Experience and Windows Stores stores-within-a-store concepts. If nothing else, Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY)’s stock has more than tripled this year.

This could explain why other retailers are suddenly gung ho about showrooming. Almost any company that was affected by it now says it is its greatest opportunity.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) sought to minimize the impact of the practice by implementing free ship-to-store delivery services, and offering a mobile app for shoppers to compare its stores’ prices with those of competitors, as well as those appearing in its own online storefront. Its same-store sales barely budged 0.1% higher last quarter, but its online sales rocketed 30% higher.

Similarly, Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) has also been aggressively confronting showrooming. It’s asked suppliers to design exclusive products for its stores that can’t be price-matched, and then adopted a price-matching policy of its own, saying it would meet prices seen on Amazon’s site — first at Christmas, then year-round. It’s also started up a ship-to-store program.

And just yesterday, the retailer’s multichannel president took to the company’s blog to say how showrooming is “also the greatest opportunity for retailers.” Like Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) has hit on the idea that shoppers need to have a great in-store experience to want to buy there, and like Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), it’s turning to the digital arena to achieve that, using mobile commerce to seamlessly integrate the two spheres, offering products, price, and personalized offers to seal the deal.

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