Best Buy to Furlough 51,000 Store Employees; Says It Has Reclaimed 70% of Sales Through Curbside Service

Best Buy April 15 announced it would furlough about 51,000 store employees on April 19 as it deals with a shrunken economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The situation we are all facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is truly unprecedented,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement.

Barry said that the corporate decision “for the health and safety of our customers and employees” to shift store operations to a temporary enhanced curbside service-only model starting March 22, included suspending all in-home delivery, installation and repairs.

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The executive said the nation’s largest CE retailer retained 70% of monthly sales in March compared with last year after moving to enhanced curbside service. Barrie said all domestic stores are closed to customer traffic and approximately 40 of them, particularly in the Northeast, have been completely closed to all business for at least 10 days.

“We are fulfilling essential technology needs for customers in a safe and innovative way, including continuing to provide remote technical advice and support,” she said. “This time of working, learning, cooking, entertaining and, importantly, connecting across the country from home only underscores our strategy and purpose: to enrich lives through technology.”

Barry said e-commerce sales are up more than 250%, while about 50% of online sales are from customers choosing to pick up their products at curbside service.

All retail and field employees whose hours were eliminated when the company shifted to the curbside service model are being paid for their regularly scheduled hours through April 18.

“The situation remains very fluid and there is still a great deal of uncertainty, particularly as it relates to depth and duration of store closures and consumer confidence over time,” Barry said.

She said the chain is preparing to re-open stores to customers as soon as it is safe to do so, with timing likely to vary at state and local levels.

“In the meantime, as you would expect, we are focused on making the difficult decisions necessary to ensure that at the end of this crisis Best Buy remains a strong, vibrant company,” she said.