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Monday, June 30, 2014

Companies find bigger returns in smaller stores

Joyce Smith
Kansas City Star

To Neng Yang, the Best Buy box store in Independence is just too overwhelming, so much so that she only shops there once a year, at the holidays.

So when she needed a new cellphone, she bypassed the 55,000-square-foot store with its many departments — appliances, big-screen TVs, computers, cameras, car audio, video and music. Instead, she stopped across the street at the Best Buy Mobile store.

The slimmed-down 850-square-foot sister store, in Independence Center, concentrates only on mobile devices.

“I ask about a thousand questions, and this is more personalized, more one-on-one attention,” said Yang, of Blue Springs.

Yang bought a white Droid Razr, and her brother, John Yang, picked up a black one.

Bigger is not always better. Just ask the biggest retailers in the country — and their customers.

The recession and the growth of online shopping have conspired to cut chains down to size. One strategy they’ve employed has been to close underperforming stores. But Best Buy and an increasing number of companies are trying another strategy, too — going smaller.

Among the retailers testing smaller concepts are Blockbuster, Ann Taylor, the Gap, Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Sports Authority. RadioShack is trying a “store within a store” format in several OfficeMax stores in California.

Restaurants are also thinking small, including Leawood-based Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc.

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