Best Buy sprints into fitness business

Along with cameras, laptops and plasma screen televisions, electronics retailer Best Buy Co. will now sell elliptical, stationary bikes and personal health solutions gadgets like Bluetooth-enabled weight scales and blood pressure monitors.

The company sprinted into the health and fitness market today by unveiling exercise products in 40 stores in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas.

Apart from fitness equipment, the selection at these stores include more than 30 feet of technology devices organized by popular activities such as running, walking, swimming, and yoga.

"We're constantly looking for the most innovative solutions to address our customer's lifestyle needs," said Steve Trier, senior director of customer research & development at Best Buy in a press release.

"Customers expect quality, selection and service from Best Buy, and with health and fitness, we're matching the right combination of gear with experienced BlueShirts and Geek Squad to help them manage and stay motivated by their fitness routines."

Best Buy has been dabbling in the fitness category for a while now, testing some of the products such as the GPS watch and dedicating space for the segment at an Atlanta store, company spokesman Justin Barber said in a phone interview. The company jumped into the industry after receiving feedback from customers and employees, Barber said. Fitness equipment registered as one of the top searches on the company's Web site, he said.

There's no major retail chain dedicated solely to selling exercise equipments and gadgets. But Best Buy would be competing against stores such as Sears and Target. The move nevertheless seems surprising for a brand that is synonymous with geeky electronic gadgets.

"When you can't sell what you are supposed to be selling, you try to sell something else I guess, " said Britt Beemer, consumer expert and CEO of America's Research Group, in a phone interview.

In the past year, the company has struggled against deflation in television prices and downward spiraling DVD and CD sales.UPDATE: Best Buy is allocating some of its DVD/ CD space to display the new selection, Barber said.

So, the latest offering could definitely be a way to nab customers from a different segment.
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