Best Buy in China

North American companies have been entering the Chinese market for so long that rarely – if ever – do they warrant coverage beyond a one or two paragraph slug in the back of the Wall Street Journal, anymore. The problems, the strategies, and the narrative remains – with some variation – largely the same. And that’s why, in my opinion, Best Buy Corporation‘s splashy entry into the Chinese market is so interesting, important, and unusual. As the first foreign electronics retail chain to enter China, Best Buy needs to prove that retail atmosphere and – above all – quality service are advantages that can successfully compete against traditional “price-first” Chinese retailers. This is no small trick, as I write in “Best Buy Booming in China,” published (today) by MinnPost.

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I don’t often post links to the work that I do on China for media in Minnesota and the Midwest, in part because that work usually has a limited audience. This one is an obvious exception, and I’m glad to link to it. At the same time, I’m also glad to be sending my readers over to MinnPost, one of the more important recent experiments in American journalism (MinnPost’s account of its history can be found here; outside accounts can be found here and here). Founded by Joel Kramer, the former editor and publisher of the StarTribune (the largest daily in Minnesota), and staffed, largely, with writers who were downsized out of the StarTribune in the aftermath of its recent acquisition by a (largely incompetent) venture capital firm, MinnPost is an ambitious attempt to bridge online media with the high-quality reporting that used to be found in many metropolitan dailies – like the StarTribune. How good is it? From a personal perspective, I can state with near certainty that I could not have sold the Best Buy piece to either of the two Twin Cities metro dailies (for various reasons), nor seen it published so quickly. MinnPost not only bought it (and – freelancers, take note – they pay very competitively for online “front page” content), but they published it within eight days of receiving copy and photos.

3 comments

  1. I’ve done some pro bono work with the MinnPost folks to help them promote the site in its early days. I’m glad to here your experience working with them, from the writer’s perspective, was a good one. I think they’re up to good stuff there, and it’s nice to have a different-but-similar voice in town among the two daily newspapers.

    Your piece on Best Buy highlights the key challenge for Western companies that are looking to succeed in China: Doing business in China isn’t the same as doing business back home. You can’t simply transplant your U.S. strategy, pat it on the butt and say, “Go make me some money.” It’s a different place that requires a different approach. I’m eager to see how it pans out for the big hometown company.

  2. Interesting though that the article seems to say that Best Buy is using the same service-oriented retail strategy it uses at home. The Chinese economy is changing, the Chinese consumer is changing, and “new” strategies imported from abroad are sometimes exactly what is needed to keep up.

    All of the news reports Google can find are very coy about the location of the second store. Do you have the inside scoop?

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