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Barbara Farfan

Best Buy's Decline Doesn't Indicate the Death of the Retail Big Box Format, But Best Buy's Rebirth Will Indicate the Death of Its Big-Box Mentality (BBY)

By May 31, 2012

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Ever since 50 Best Buy (BBY) store closing locations were announced, and plans for future Best Buy stores in smaller formats were revealed, analysts and experts have been speculating whether the shifts in Best Buy indicate the death of big box stores in the U.S. retail industry. Personally I kind of thought that the bankruptcy of the Borders, Linens 'n Things, and Circuit City chains were some pretty good future indicators for big box stores. So really, aren't Best Buy's changes more of a confirmation than a revelation?

The confirmation that Best Buy is providing to the U.S. retail industry, however, may not be all about impending doom for the physical big box format. If Best Buy can successfully navigate its changes without any stopovers in bankruptcy court, it will be partially due to the transformation of its big box stores, and largely due to the transformation of its big-box mentality.

I recently visited a consumer electronics competitor of Best Buy to purchase a micro SD card for my mobile phone. The greeter at the door asked if he could help me find anything, walked me to the correct section of the store, passed me off to the appropriate department employee who asked a few questions, and based on my answers, retrieved my memory card. After I indicated that I didn't know where to pay, he walked me to the cash registers and passed me off to a cashier.

At the end of my payment transaction the cashier asked if I wanted a bag for my purchase and I told her that I didn't need one because I was going to install it right away. She offered to use her scissors to open the hermetically sealed packaging for me, which I gratefully accepted. I then asked if she knew which side of the SD card needed to be inserted first and she eagerly confirmed that I was installing it correctly. She then asked if I knew how to format the card, and the look on my face immediately prompted her to offer to do it for me.

She clicked around on my phone, frowned, clicked some more, called over a manager, rebooted the phone, and then figured out that I needed a different card. The manager left to retrieve it, and while the cashier was issuing me a refund for the price difference, the manager installed and formatted the second memory card. I walked out of that store with exactly what I had wanted when I had walked into the store. That is, a phone that was functioning better than ever with more memory than I will ever need.

Time elapsed was 15 minutes.

Even though I was in a big box store, the store employees definitely did not have a big-box mentality. They took the transaction personally. They got involved. They seemed to realize that I didn't just want to walk out with a piece of electronics hardware, I wanted to walk out with a phone that was functioning better with more memory. Despite Best Buy's mission to "solve customer puzzles," these are things that I can't remember ever experiencing at Best Buy, which is part of the reason why I was shopping with a Best Buy competitor.

The death of the big-box mentality is the death of a fundamental misunderstanding about what customers really want, and a new understanding about where the retail experience begins and ends. When inside a big box consumer electronics store, does a customer want a product or do they want an immediate solution? More often than not they want a solution and walking out with a product doesn't necessarily mean they got what they came in for.

Beyond the big-box mentality is the recognition that a transaction isn't complete until the solution is ensured. Beyond the big-sale mentality are employees with a sense of ownership that motivates them to get involved. Beyond the big-boss mentality are managers who focus on the support they can give to the employees who are responsible for creating the customer solutions.

If the big-box mentality was gone, the big box stores probably wouldn't be. Hopefully Best Buy's new CEO will understand that. Otherwise there's probably no amount of marketing, positioning, or competitive pricing that will be able to stave off the death of Best Buy or any other big box stores for long.

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May 31, 2012 at 11:26 am
(1) Matt says:

The much-forecasted for death of retail is not happening. Retailers die because they aren’t different, they don’t understand their customers, or are not in growing categories. Like any organism, retailers have to adapt to survive.

Nice experience you had in the “other” retailer – but I’m curious as to which one it was – are you gonna tell? :)

June 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm
(2) Matt says:

And how did the person waiting in line behind you at the register you couldn’t find feel? Waiting for all the help you were getting to be over and get their stuff paid for. And how did the cashier know the sku of the replacement card if the manager was still getting while she gave you a refund? And why not mention that the sales person gave you the wrong card so they weren’t of much help. Your just another Best Buy hater with a bigger soapbox.

June 22, 2012 at 9:01 am
(3) Joel says:

I am curious as to why you mention Best Buy, but do not mention the name of the competitor. If this experience is to be believed, then giving us an idea of who has a good retail model would make sense.

I, too, want to know what other customers thought if they had to wait for your issue to be corrected. Also, do you like being passed around from employee to employee? Most people do not.

June 23, 2012 at 9:37 am
(4) Jeff says:

Couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s quite ironic how Best Buy is called out in this article but yet we are led to belive this “Competitor” did things so great. Funny thing is her experience really was a poor one..minus the cashier!! All of that to get a memory card the the retailer after paying all the bills..including labor..greeter…sales floor rep…cashier…manager probably loss money on. This is the reason why big box retail is in trouble…customers own technology they have no business owning because they don’t know how to use it and then want “service” for free and when you tell them its something you charge for they throw a fit….those things combined will be the death of big box retail. Good luck getting that “service” from an online retailer!

June 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm
(5) josh says:

Come on now most this is most customers that go into any electronics store have a idea of what they want, that being said some people want to get in and get out bestbuy does this it is a very engaged company from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave and after that they offer the complete pakage soulutions pssh they write the book on that, how can you deface or say what you have when you did not even try going to a bestbuy then the competitor how do you know you would not have been helped even better there,name one competitor that bestbuy has that has store around the world has solutions and overs a complete pakage with everything you buy your not gonna find it. bestbuy does need to change the big box mentality i do agree with you on that bust customer service they do not soultions they do not i think you need to revisit bestbuy and take a better look at how hard there employees actual work for the customer.
sincerly best buy employee!

January 12, 2014 at 6:20 am
(6) Stormy says:

This amount is non-refundable and hence the companies should take
stringent steps to avoid carbon outcome as much as possible,
to increases their revenue. Well, then, how would they do this without
causing a real-life Armageddon. Vegetables I sometimes grow in the Fall
include beets, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, lettuce,
and broccoli.

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