Best Buy Says Bye-Bye to Traditional Staff and Stores

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Spurred by consumers’ rapidly changing shopping habits, Best Buy is looking to overhaul its operating model by dramatically rejiggering its labor force and stores.

The overriding goal, explained CEO Corie Barry on a recent earnings call, is to deliver the best customer experience in the most cost-effective way. With online sales more than doubling over the past two years to 33 percent of total U.S. revenue, and the store count down to 946 flagship locations and falling, the revamp began with a workforce reduction of some 21,000 store-level employees in 2020 and another 5,000 layoffs in February.

Remaining Blue Shirts are being crossed-trained to handle multiple product categories and tasks, while an elite force of specialty salespeople was formed last month to target the premium appliance and home installation categories. The new team, nearly 3,000 strong, is comprised of consultants from the company’s In-Home Advisors program, its Pacific Kitchen & Home appliance staff, and its Magnolia A/V system designers.

“We brought these three previously siloed teams together into one team,” Barry said. “This change positions our most skilled employees against the most complex work” and sales transactions.

On the store front, Best Buy will begin testing a new array of prototypes later this year in pursuit of an optimal size, with footprints ranging from 35,000 square feet down to 5,000 square feet. This follows a four-store remodel in Minneapolis late last year in which the sales floors and SKU counts were reduced, and storage and staging space increased to better utilize the real estate as online fulfillment hubs.

Two other pilots include a new outlet store concept, also slated for the back-half of the year, and an “experiential” prototype that recently launched in Houston with interactive fitness, PC gaming and headphone areas, along with fully remodeled premium appliance and home theater sections, Barry noted.

Outgoing president/COO Mike Mohan added that almost half of the company’s store leases are up for renewal and that all are relatively short term, giving Best Buy the flexibility to act on any of the initiatives quickly should the tests prove promising.