Best Buy Cutting Store Jobs, Reducing Hours in Response to Increased E-commerce

Best Buy is reportedly cutting store positions and reducing employee hours nationwide as the country’s largest consumer electronics retailer increasingly transitions to online sales during the pandemic. Online sales grew 174% in the third quarter, with 40% of purchases picked up in stores or curbside.

Last April as COVID-19 infections and alarm began spreading across the country, Best Buy shut down stores and furloughed about 51,000 employees. The chain had 125,000 full-time and part-time workers in January 2020. In June, Best Buy began bringing back furloughed workers and in August raised its starting wage to $15 an hour, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the job cuts.

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A Best Buy corporate spokesperson wouldn’t directly comment on the employee downsizing, saying instead that the growing emergence of e-commerce underscores ongoing retail changes.

“As we have said before, customer shopping behavior will be permanently changed in a way that is even more digital,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Our workforce will need to evolve to meet the evolving needs of customers while providing more flexible opportunities for our people.”

Speaking last month on a virtual CES keynote, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said a percentage of stores nationwide have become majority distribution centers for online sales. The move has resulted in the hiring of IT techs, data scientists and engineers.

“It’s this comfort level more than anything else that will continue to push the envelope,” Barry said, adding “customer expectations will be raised in terms of what they can get done digitally. People took immediately to more digital means [of finding products].”

Best Buy reports fourth-quarter and full-year fiscal results Feb. 25.

Citing ‘Essential’ Retail Status, GameStop Stores Remain Open

Key household goods during the pandemic include water, toilet paper … and video games.

GameStop, the nation’s largest video game retailer with more than 5,400 locations, is remaining open despite increased concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a revised update, GameStop March 19 said it is instituting multiple “social distancing” practices in stores, including allowing no than 10 customers in a stores at any given time. The chain is adopting CDC guidelines creating a six-foot parameter between customers in checkout lines.

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Store hours are being reduced from noon to 8 p.m., beginning March 21.
GameStop is rolling out door service to allow customers to pick up purchases at the front of U.S. store locations. It is also suspending temporarily in-store trades until March 29, and postponing all gaming events and midnight launch activities until further notice.

“The customer is at the core of everything we do, and in light of the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, our top priority is keeping our customers, associates and communities safe as we continue to closely monitor the situation,” GameStop said in a memo on its website.

The PR blitz comes as media reports cited an internal memo to staff that suggested GameStop is an “essential” business during the virus pandemic.

“Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” read the memo as reported by kotaku.com.

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GameStop’s push to remain open comes as it grapples with the fiscal challenges of consumers switching to digital, as well as a dearth of new hardware consoles. Industrywide software and hardware revenue has declined for seven consecutive months, according to The NPD Group.

GameStop Jan. 13 reported a 27.5% decline in sales for the nine-week holiday period ended Jan. 4, compared with the previous-year period. Total comparable store sales decreased 24.7%, following a 1.5% increase in comparable store sales for the similar period last year.

Regardless, GameStop said it is prepared to face the pandemic.

“We have assembled an internal COVID-19 taskforce dedicated solely to this issue and have instructed our associates to follow the procedures and guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help stem the spread of COVID-19,” the chain said.