Best Buy putting in music centers

Hoping to cater to everyone from the garage guitarist to a recording musician, Best Buy Co. Inc. is announcing a massive new initiative that sets aside store space for an array of musical instruments and gear in dozens of sites nationwide.

The nation's largest consumer electronics retailer will announce Tuesday that it plans to open as many as 85 of the music centers inside its stores by the end of the year and could add even more locations in the future, executives said.

The chain has two locations in Lexington, but it has not been disclosed whether they will be among the selected sites.

Each site will use 2,500 square feet of retail space and include roughly 1,000 different products with well-known brand names, including Fender, Gibson, Drum Workshop and Roland.

”We're not just extending the shelf space in the store, we're creating a designated area specifically for this experience,“ said Kevin Balon, vice president of musical instruments. ”And we're trying to create an authentic and genuine musical instrument store look and feel inside of Best Buy.“

The retailer will use its headfirst jump into the $8 billion U.S. musical instrument market to carve out new revenue opportunities as sales of CDs and DVDs slow, experts said.

But some observers are cautious about the potential for big rewards, particularly as the nation's economy slows and consumers become even more particular about spending hard-earned paychecks.

”It's not a high-growth area and it's obviously going to take up a lot of real estate,“ said Morningstar retail analyst Brady Lemos.

Executives declined to discuss how much the company is investing or how much they expect to gain from the effort.

So far, 10 sites are open, including five in California, two in Illinois and two in Minnesota.

Best Buy's selection will include everything from accessories — picks, sheet music and cases — to high-end basses, guitars, keyboards and DJ equipment. Instruments will be housed in separate rooms and the company also plans to offer group music lessons.

A selection of the offerings will also be available online in early August.