LONDON: US electricals giant Best Buy, which is new to the UK, and leading local department store group John Lewis, are both looking to expand through smaller stores as the recession cuts a swathe through British high streets.

The two companies have been forced to look to new options as construction of new out-of-town shopping centres with room for larger stores has been put on the back burner during the downturn.

Best Buy is the US's biggest electrical retailer and it is entering the UK via a joint venture with CarphoneWarehouse. Originally it planned to open 100 ‘big box' stores by 2013 but is scaling that back to around 80.

However, Best Buy chief executive Robert Willett warned competitors that they would labouring under a “false sense of security” if they thought the company “had got cold feet.”

He said that the company instead planned to open a “material number” of its smaller format Wireless World stores which he said were performing ahead of expectations in the US.

As for John Lewis, it says it will take a decision on whether or not to launch up to 50 smaller home and electrical stores across the UK, based on the fortunes of a new 45,000 sq ft pilot store on a retail park near Poole in Dorset.

The company has 27 large department stores in the UK with another two close to completion. But plans for more in Oxford, Leeds, Preston, Sheffield, Dublin, Sprucefield in Northern Ireland and Portsmouth are stalled by property developers delaying new shopping centre construction.

Data sourced from Financial Times: additional content by WARC staff