Best Buy to cut seasonal staff during holidays

AP News
Posted: Sep 27, 2011 3:36 PM
Best Buy to cut seasonal staff during holidays

Best Buy Co. will hire about half as many seasonal staff as last year and increase the hours its regular staffers work as part of its plans for the crucial upcoming holiday season.

The largest U.S. electronics retailer also plans to expand services like free tech support and a longer window for product returns during the holidays. It will also promote under-$100 deals to coax shoppers into its stores.

"The consumer continues to be cautious," CEO Brian Dunn said in an interview at the company's New York Union Square store. "That's not just a blip, that's the new normal."

Best Buy, based in Minneapolis, earlier this month reported its second-quarter net income fell 30 percent and revenue was nearly flat at $11.35 billion, falling short of analysts' expectations, as the company continues to battle for market share with online retailers and discount stores.

Best Buy has beefed up its online presence and worked to reduce its square footage by 10 percent over the next three to five years. It has also promoted services like tech support and customer service to differentiate itself from other retailers.

For the holidays the company said it will hire 15,000 workers, 48 percent less than the 29,000 it hired last year. The total number of hours that employees work will remain the same, because regular staffers, trained in customer service, will work more hours. Dunn said that the aim is to have more "experienced and seasoned" workers on hand during the busiest time of year.

Other holiday plans include promoting new smartphones and tablets that are due out this fall, including the iPhone 5, which is expected to be announced next week.

One question mark is whether Best Buy will carry the new $250 tablet computer that will likely unveil on Wednesday.

Best Buy carries's Kindle reader, but Dunn declined to say if Best Buy would carry the tablet, rumored to be called Kindle Fire, since Amazon hasn't announced distribution plans yet.

Other holiday moves: Best Buy plans to promote more items under $100 and spend more advertising online and on mobile devices, while TV advertising spending will be flat. The company is also expanding its return policy, Geek Squad protection and technical advice services and same-day pickup.