By Alan Wolf, YSN
Best Buy is trimming the ranks and cutting back the hours of its in-store Blue Shirt employees as COVID-wary customers continue their shift to online shopping.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, notices went out to store workers last week. Best Buy declined to comment on the specifics of its workforce reduction but confirmed that the cuts were made in response to changes in the way people shop.
“As we have said before, customer shopping behavior will be permanently changed in a way that is even more digital,” a Best Buy spokesman told the Journal. “Our workforce will need to evolve to meet the evolving needs of customers while providing more flexible opportunities for our people.”
Indeed, the last remaining national consumer tech chain reported that online orders nearly tripled in the U.S. during its third quarter, ended Nov. 24, 2020, while online revenue rose 174 percent to $3.8 billion. Online sales represented more than one-third of total U.S. revenue during the period, up from 16 percent the year prior, and Best Buy CEO Corie Barry attributed the outperformance to a “flexible store operating model and ability to shift quickly to digital.”
Barry had ordered all Best Buy stores temporarily closed at the outset of the pandemic and implemented a curbside pickup policy that compelled customers to shop online as they clamored for computers, appliances and other quarantine-driven purchases. Even after the stores reopened, the popularity of its BOPIS policy (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) has led to recent pilot programs that further repurpose its stores as e-commerce fulfillment centers.
The changes in Best Buy’s channel strategy echo AVB’s longstanding admonitions to members to adopt a digital sales and marketing strategy. “Your website is your flagship store,” CEO Jim Ristow told BrandSource dealers long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. “It’s the most important store in your arsenal.”
Fortunately for members and thanks to AVB’s foresight, the group was prepared for the unprecedented onrush to online shopping. Its industry-leading e-commerce and digital merchandising and marketing platforms drove a stunning 825 percent increase in comparable online sales in the wake of the COVID outbreak and a 1,300 percent gain in total sales year over year, Ristow reported.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.