This summer I am working at Best Buy, exploring leadership in the retail world from the eyes of an employee.
The power of a corporate entity begins with the individual. This summer, I have been working at Best Buy Co. Inc. Likely needing no introduction, Best Buy, headquartered in Richfield, Minnesota, is a big-box, consumer electronics retailer that has over 1,000 stores in the United States under its own name or the name of its subsidiaries. It also operates over 200 stores internationally, namely in Canada and Mexico. At this point, Best Buy remains the only company of its kind. While there are stores such as Apple where one can buy Apple Products, or Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and (not for much longer) Sprint, where one can buy phones, there are no major stores where one can enter and buy the same grade of consumer electronics that Best Buy sells. In fact, the primary competitors for Best Buy are now Walmart, Target, and Amazon; in other words, stores that sell more than just one product. A decade ago, RadioShack, HHGregg, Sears, and Circuit City would have been the true competitors to Best Buy, but as of last year with Sears, all of those stores have closed. Best Buy, on the other hand, has seen constant value growth over the previous five years, as they were able to appropriately adapt to the online buying market, as well as increase the scope and capability of their service arm, Geek Squad.
Over a thousand miles away sits the store where I work, but even with so much distance between my store and the corporate office, the day to day is still influenced by the decisions made on the level of the CEO and Board of Directors. This can be both a blessing and a curse. For example, with everything going on with COVID-19, corporate has allowed employees to decide to refuse service to customers who refuse to make a mask. Since this is a corporate policy, one’s managers cannot force us to break this policy. This also allows for us as employees to pass the buck to corporate when customers attempt to argue with us about wearing masks and other, more nuanced issues.
On the other hand, because corporate is involved in our day to day, corporate’s metrics for what they consider a “good job” are still being measured, regardless of the state of the world. To put it into perspective, Best Buy does not pay its employees on commission. We often get customers that come in and are convinced we do until we explain that we do not. That being said, we are still tracked on the revenue earned. While the revenue goals are not challenging to achieve, it is some of the other metrics that make the job relatively stressful. Working in sales, we are also required to get customers to apply for credit cards, sign up for a program that turns Best Buy in a personal IT service for customers, and even get positive customer reviews from some of our clients. Credit cards and tech support are things that some of our customers are interested in and find that they would like to participate in. However, it remains that Best Buy is still asking for behavior and performance similar to what employees were doing before the pandemic and seems not to understand the position that many customers are in, with many not having the money available to them that they did six months ago.
At the same time, as the same metrics are being asked of employees, there are also many fewer employees today than six months ago. At any given point our store would have had between 2 employees (in smaller departments such as mobile and appliances) and five employees (computers and home theatre) per department. As of right now, there are approximately five sales consultants across the entire store. Corporate has attempted to follow an array of different models in its stores, but it seems that the model at my store may be the favorite one for the company. Still, it appears that it will be one of the most detrimental to the employees that remain at the store.
Best Buy’s Chain of Operations – I work under the Best Buy Enterprise Services.