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LEE SCHOENFELD BEST BUY

By Published on .

When Lee Schoenfeld joined Best Buy nearly 16 years ago, it was a small Minneapolis stereo components company called Sound of Music, with annual revenues of $6 million to $8 million. Things changed.

Mr. Schoenfeld, 42, is now senior VP-marketing of the country's fastest-growing discount retailer of name-brand consumer electronics, computers, home office products, appliances, entertainment software and photographic equipment.

Sales topped $3 billion in fiscal '94, up 86% from 1993, which was up 74% from 1992.

Change is what fuels Mr. Schoenfeld, whose jobs have ranged from store manager to buyer to his current position.

"Our No. 1 strength is being an early adopter," he says. "We tend to advocate change. Retail is an open book. If you do a good job, it's right there for the competition to see."

Best Buy was a pioneer in the superstore movement of the early '80s, when it changed its name and began doubling sales yearly. By the time the deep-pocketed Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co. had caught on, Best Buy took another leap, launching its Concept II strategy-lower prices, salaried salespeople and self-service selection.

In a recent TV campaign featuring the blue golf-shirted no-pressure, no-hassle sales staff, the humorous spots conclude: "If it weren't for the blue shirts, you'd think we were just cheap."

Mr. Schoenfeld says he's "constantly tinkering" with the advertising, which commands a $110 million-to-$120 million budget administered by a 75 to 85-person in-house unit that lately has moved ads toward selling Best Buy as a brand.

Selling "stores within the store," such as entertainment software, also has been extremely successful, Mr. Schoenfeld says. That could change, though. If history is any indicator, Concept III is just around the corner.

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