Best Buy, Target End Their Geek Squad Alliance


Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Target (NYSE:TGT) have ended their experimental Geek Squad partnership, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"Last October, the two Minnesota-based retail giants launched a six-month pilot program in which Geek Squad agents staffed the electronics departments at 29 Target stores, mostly in the Denver area but also one location in the Twin Cities region," the story said. "Target had hoped Geek Squad agents would add value to its efforts to sell more televisions and computers, a category the Minneapolis-based company has struggled with in recent years."

Target issued a statement that the alliance, well, didn't quite deliver. "At Target, we continually test new concepts with the goal of providing our guests with a convenient, value-driven experience. Following our recent in-store test of Geek Squad services in select locations, the partnership is concluding," the statement said.

Last month, George Sherman, the executive who oversaw Geek Squad and had championed its expansion, left the company, the Star Tribune report said.

Whether or not this alliance could have yielded strong mutual benefits at another time is unknown, but right now, Best Buy's overall corporate challenges make the chain rather toxic. The Geek Squad itself has a somewhat yin-yang quality to it, in that its inherently technical nature makes it a strategic fit with Best Buy's one-time high-tech expert persona. But as the chain has tried expanding beyond consumer electronics, the importance of Geek Squad has diluted.

More importantly, a repair unit has a lot of dangers and downsides. Some repairs are harder than others, and sometimes the device is simply done for. Consumers are rarely reasonable about determining when a repair failure is the fault of the store or simply an unavoidable outcome. And the Geek Squad hasn't made life easy for Best Buy, generating a mountain of media references for privacy violations when working on customer equipment.

A Best Buy executive recently started floating the idea of Geek Squad employees going to customers' homes and creating full inventories of everything they own, based on observation. No, there's nothing even a little creepy about that.

Target's goal was to use Geek Squad to add more personal services to its stores, while boosting its own very thin tech image. Best Buy said it wants to focus more on its core efforts. Given their current financial mess, that's hard to argue.

For more:

- The Minneapolis Star Tribune story

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