Best Buy will start selling the Apple Watch beginning Aug. 7 in the United States, marking the first time that Apple has struck a deal to sell its flagship smartwatches through a retail store chain other than its own.
The coming release of the Apple Watch, starting in about 100 Best Buy stores and through BestBuy.com, was announced by the retailer on July 26, as well as further plans to expand the availability of the devices to an additional 200 stores by the Christmas holiday shopping season.
"The Apple Watch is a big addition to our stores and Website, and we know our customers want it," Jason Bonfig, senior category officer at Best Buy, said in a statement. "We are excited to bring the Apple Watch to more consumers, especially with the holidays coming up."
Best Buy said it will carry the devices in 16 different Apple Watch configurations, including Sport and Watch versions in both 38mm and 42mm sizes. The nation's largest electronics retailer said it will also carry some 50 Apple Watch accessories, including watchbands, screen shields, watch stands, chargers and more.
A list of Best Buy stores where the smartwatches will be available will be released in the coming days, according to Best Buy.
The Apple Watch went on sale on April 24, and many model color, strap and materials combinations sold out quickly after preorders opened on April 10, according to earlier eWEEK reports.
Apple has so far not announced any sales figures for the Apple Watch due to competitive reasons, so it is interesting that the device maker is already working to expand its distribution and sales of the smartwatches.
Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw, told eWEEK that Apple's move to sell the Apple Watch through Best Buy is a usual move for Apple after launching new products. At first, Apple typically sells initial devices through its own stores and Website, but then it moves to expand the distribution to partner retailers, said Dawson.
That was the expectation with Apple Watch, as well, he said, because Apple doesn't have its own stores in every state and every city where consumers can see and buy its products. "So third-party retail has always been very important," he said. "This is just the first sign that Apple thinks they've had enough sales so that they can now expand the distribution."
One thing to watch with this plan, however, is whether Best Buy stores can match the personalized customer buying experience for the Apple Watch that Apple has set up in its own stores, said Dawson.
"Apple has kind of redesigned the sales process around the Apple Watch so customers can come in and try them on" and get a detailed, personal look at various watchbands, watch sizes and more, he said. "It's a different product than buying a MacBook. It's very personal, and the people in Apple stores have been specially trained."
Best Buy store employees "aren't used to doing that," and will likely not be able to replicate that personalized user experience, said Dawson, even if they receive special training. "That's the big question I have. While Apple has controlled the sales process in its own stores, will there be the same level of service in Best Buy stores? And if it's not, and that could be the case, is that going to be OK?"
The devices start at $349 for the Apple Watch Sport version, which is available with a silver or space-gray aluminum body and with wristbands in many colors. The standard Apple Watch starts at $549 for a 38mm-wide version or $599 for a 42mm-wide model. Prices for the 38mm version can rise to $1,049, while prices for the 42mm model can go up to $1,099, depending on the watchband selected. The regular Apple Watch can be purchased with a fluoroelastomer band or one of three leather bands.
The company's luxury version of the Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Edition, with a price tag of $10,000. The most expensive version of the Apple Watch, the 18-karat gold Edition version, is priced at $17,000.