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Best Buy to open in-store music centers

Hoping to cater to everyone from the garage guitarist to a recording musician, Best Buy Co. Inc. is announcing a massive new initiative that sets aside store space for an array of musical instruments and gear in dozens of sites nationwide.

The nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer will announce Tuesday that it plans to open as many as 85 of the music centers inside its stores by the end of the year and could add even more locations in the future, executives told Each site will use about 2,500 square feet of retail space and include roughly 1,000 different products with well-known brand names such as Fender, Gibson, Drum Workshop and Roland.

“We’re not just extending the shelf space in the store, we’re creating a designated area specifically for this experience,” said Kevin Balon, the company’s vice president of musical instruments. “And we’re trying to create an authentic and genuine musical instrument store look and feel inside of Best Buy.”

The Richfield, Minn.-based retailer — already an industry leader in sales of everything from digital cameras to video games — will use its headfirst jump into the $8 billion U.S. musical instrument market to carve out new revenue opportunities as sales of CDs and DVDs slow, experts said.

When the rollout is complete, Best Buy — already considered by many investors to be a global powerhouse in the electronics retailing world — will become the second-largest instrument seller in the country based on locations.

But some observers are cautious about whether the expansion efforts will reap big rewards, particularly as the nation’s economy slows and consumers become even more particular about spending hard-earned paychecks.

“It’s not a high-growth area and it’s obviously going to take up a lot of real estate,” said Morningstar retail analyst Brady Lemos.

Executives declined to comment on how much the company is investing in the project or how much they expect to gain from the store-within-a-store effort.

So far, ten sites are already open, including five in California, two in Illinois and two in Minnesota.

Best Buy’s selection will include everything from accessories — picks, sheet music and cases — to high-end basses, guitars, keyboards and DJ equipment. Instruments will be housed in separate rooms and the company also plans to offer group music lessons.

Acoustic guitars will sell between $89.99 and $3,200 and drum kits will retail for as much as $5,000.

A selection of the offerings will also be available online in early August.

“However you want to play, if play means you’re just learning and you want to play with a bunch of buddies, or you want to play on stage, we can support any of that,” Balon said.

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