Best Buy is the first big box chain to get the Apple Watch, and they won't be the last.
Back in April I wrote about the experience of trying on an Apple Watch at the Apple Store. The Apple Watch was still a pretty rarified piece of hardware. Outside of Apple Stores and a few select high-end boutiques, you couldn't find them anywhere. They wouldn't be available for walk-in retail sale for months. But I still loved the experience, because it was unlike my previous adventures to the Apple Store. Fast forward to now and Best Buy is the first major retailer to announce plans to carry the Apple Watch starting August 7th.
Apple wants to sell more Apple Watches and wants more people using them.
There certainly has been no shortage of eye-rolling in the wake of the news. Best Buy is one of those places that Apple users love to hate, and for good reason. I don't know anyone who thinks Best Buy is a superlative retail experience. When I've shopped there, it's been out of necessity or convenience, not because I like to shop there or think I'm getting a particularly good deal. And more than once I've had customers to the Apple retailer I work at bring broken Macs that Best Buy repair people were unable to fix properly, so I can't say much for their "Geek Squad" service either.
Having said that, Best Buy has been an important retail partner for Apple. Best Buy has sported an Apple "store within a store" concept for years. Apple hardware and accessories are positioned in a specific area within Best Buy locations, to make all of your Apple gear easier to find. Whether or not it'll be stocked or whether the display models will be working, well, that's a different story. But at least they're there.
Accordingly, it makes sense that Best Buy would be the first major retailer to announce that it's carrying the Apple Watch. It makes sense. The Apple Watch is a gadget, after all. What's more, it's a gadget that's designed to work with the iPhone, which Best Buy sells in quantity.
It's interesting to take a straw poll of people using Apple devices like iPhones. If you ask them where they got them, you'll find answers all over the map. Some of us prefer to go directly to the Apple Store itself. But many of us shop at boutiques licensed or owned outright by our mobile carriers, mall stores, kiosks, and more. Big box retailers like Walmart and Target carry Apple gear, too. And, of course, there are online retailers.
Restricting the sale of the Apple Watch to the Apple Store — and making it a precious concierge experience, as it was at launch — was never the end game. Apple wants to sell more Apple Watches and wants more people using them. The only way to do that is to get it in more retailers.
So welcome Best Buy. Seriously.