NEW YORK - Best Buy Co. will start selling the iPhone on Sept. 7, becoming first US chain to do so outside of Apple Inc.'s and AT&T Inc.'s own stores.
Yesterday's disclosure by Best Buy expands the availability of Apple's phone to 970 full-size stores and 16 smaller Best Buy Mobile stores. It's also a coup for the Minneapolis chain, which has been upgrading its cellphone departments. "We had a lot of work to do, obviously, to get in a position where Apple and AT&T would feel good about Best Buy Mobile carrying it, and that's what we've done in the last 18 months," said Shawn Score, the president of Best Buy Mobile.
Last week, Best Buy said it had completed a two-year conversion of its stores to include upgraded cellphone departments under the Best Buy Mobile brand. It has upgraded its computer systems to handle cellphone activation and spent 250,000 hours training its employees.
Score said Best Buy Mobile, which resells phone service under the carriers' brands, now has a 3.6 percent share of the cellphone market, up from 2 percent last year. It is a joint venture with CarPhone Warehouse Group PLC, Europe's largest cellphone retailer.
In Europe, independent chains like CarPhone have a much stronger presence, while the US market is dominated by the carriers' own stores. AT&T, the exclusive US carrier for the iPhone, sells it in more than 2,000 stores. Apple has more than 200 stores.
RadioShack Corp. also sells AT&T phones, but not the iPhone. AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said he could not speculate on whether the iPhone would be sold at other third-party retailers.