Best Buy announced that it will be the first national retailer to begin selling the Apple Watch outside of Apple itself. Despite concerns that the smartwatch's popularity is waning, it's likely misguided to wonder if Best Buy can save the Apple Watch. You really have to flip that question around these days, wondering what the smartwatch's arrival at Best Buy can do to save the meandering consumer electronics superstore chain.
For starters, not every Best Buy will be carrying the smartwatch. Best Buy announced on Sunday that just 100 of its stores will begin offering the Apple Watch -- 16 models and 50 different accessories -- on August 7. Another 200 Best Buy stores will be offering the tech-savvy wrist hugger in time for the holiday shopping season. That's less than a quarter of the more than 1,400 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores operated by the company. Chances are poor that your nearest Best Buy store will be carrying the Apple Watch, unlike the certainty of knowing that every Apple store does.
Best Buy will also make the devices available through BestBuy.com -- opening up access to more than just the smartwatch seekers living near the 300 participating stores -- but why would someone go through BestBuy.com when you can go directly through Apple.com? It's not as if Apple products are offered at better prices or terms through Best Buy.
We also have to keep in mind that the Apple Watch isn't as easy an online sell as an iPad or iPhone. Remember that we're talking about 16 different models. We have different wristbands and even display sizes to configure before we even begin considering the different colors. There's a reason why Apple was offering in-store fittings long before the smartwatch became available for sale at its stores. Having so few Best Buy stores participating in this rollout will make a difference.
Best Buy is running out of time
Analysts see this as the fifth consecutive fiscal year of declining revenue at Best Buy, according to S&P Capital IQ data. Earnings per share is also expected to come in lower. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch downgraded Best Buy earlier this month, fearing that comps will continue to clock in lower during the latter half of this year. The Apple Watch arrival is unlikely to change that.
This is still a positive development. Apple could change the narrative that spooked investors during its quarterly report last week, when it didn't break out the number of Apple Watch devices it sold. It could beef up marketing. It could rush the second generation, one ideally with better battery capacity, a camera, and built-in GPS. Offering Apple Watch at some of its stores is better than not offering it at all, giving it the benefit of anything that the smarter Apple does to make its own luck. However, at the end of the day, it's going to take a lot more than the Apple Watch to turn Best Buy around.