The US electricals giant Best Buy is to open its first UK store a few weeks early for the bank holiday, as it bids to take on rivals Currys and Comet.
The first Best Buy "big box" shop, which had been scheduled to open in early May, will launch in Thurrock, Essex, on 30 April. It will be closely followed over the coming weeks by outlets in Southampton's Hedge End, Liverpool's Aintree and Merry Hill in the West Midlands, as well as a shop in Croydon, London, in the autumn.
Best Buy plans to open up to 80 UK stores by 2013. It said: "We are opening the doors early to allow as many customers as possible to experience the UK's first Best Buy store over the May bank holiday weekend."
The opening of the 50,000 sq ft Thurrock store has been eagerly anticipated and will be closely watched by executives at DSGi, the owner of Currys and PC World, and Kesa Electricals, which runs Comet.
Best Buy, the world's biggest electricals retailer, first announced its intention to enter the UK market with the £1.1bn acquisition of 50 per cent of the Carphone Warehouse's retail division in May 2008, although it had originally intended to open its first store on these shores last year.
Best Buy will focus heavily on customer service, both in-store and remotely through its existing 24-hour home computer support service, Geek Squad. Ahead of Best Buy opening, DSGi has stepped up its roll-out of Currys megastores, as well as combined Currys and PC World branches, and invested in customer service. Last month, DSGi said it would open 25 new "megastores" by Christmas. One already opened is located just 100 metres from the Best Buy shop at Thurrock.
Best Buy plans to recruit up to 8,000 over the next five years, most of whom will make up its "blue shirt" in-store team. The staff will receive a nine-week training programme at the "Blue Shirt Academy", including a focus on product knowledge and customer service.