I’ve been buying items from Best Buy for years. Long after Amazon became the far cheaper alternative I would trudge down to the local Best Buy because I actually believe in supporting the local economy. I know how business works. I know how the tax systems works, and if I have to pay a few more dollars so that local people have jobs and the local government gets the tax money that’s fine buy me. Add the ability to window shop, and to easily return items and I figured buying from Best Buy was an easy decision. Sadly that decision has been getting harder, and I think after my last visit I’ll be going to Amazon first from now on.
I feel that Best Buy is trying to compete in the one way it simply cannot compete. It has massively reduced the quality of its staff over the years, and seems to be trying to lower prices. The problem is that for their model that doesn’t work. One of the points of coming into a retail store is to be able to ask knowledgeable staff about the products. A person buys a new TV every 5-10 years. It makes life easier when you can discuss the pros and cons of different models with someone that deals with TV’s every day. That is something valuable to the customer. Being able to go to a store and buy an item immediately is one of the major differentiators of local retail vs. online shopping. Oddly Best Buy seems to have missed this fact and many times relatively standard items I want to buy have to be ordered from their online store. If I have to order something online BestBuy.com is not my site of choice. It will be either NewEgg.com or Amazon. So Best Buy is decreasing local inventory, and decreasing the quality of staff to compete with the online competition..? All this means is that there is less reason to go to a local store, which ends up meaning I’ll start going to Amazon first instead.
All this really hit me the other day when I went to buy the new Mario and Rabbids game for the Switch. I drove to the store after my workout, and went back to the game section. There were HUGE banners for the new game, but I couldn’t;t find the actual games anywhere. I spent 5 minutes trying to find an associate just to be able to tell me where the game was. I was finally able to find a very bored associate in another department that then led me back to where I had just searched. We spent another 5 minutes looking over the area I had already looked over. She then had to call someone on the radio, they went back and forth, until she sighed and led me up to the front of the store where the games were in a locked cage. there were another few minutes to find the keys, and after 30 minutes I walked out of Best Buy with the game I knew I wanted the second I had walked in the door. It was not a good experience. I wasted time I could have spent doing other things. The employees seemed bored. And no one cared that the experience was piss poor. This is the type of experience I’ve had the past 5-10 times I’ve gone in Best Buys. I want to support the local economy, but if events employees don’t seem to care then at a certain point I have to ask why should I.
Rather than being down on the retail opportunities for small business I actually think this shows a way forward. Best Buy and box stores have dominated by offering a huge selection of products that used to be always available. You walk in, make your decision, and walk out with the product. In a day and age when there are too many options this seems like a poor way to go. Best Buy has 100 different models of TV. Why?
Think about if. Floor space costs a lot of money. When you have 100 models of TV, 40 models of laptop computers, 20 different printers, etc it costs a lot of money simply to display those items. Add in HVAC cost, labor cost to man the floor, etc and you get a large bill for a benefit most people don’t care about. Give me the option of 5 laptop’s, 10 TV’s and 3 printers. Isn’t the purpose of retail buyers to find the best products? Have the buyers do their jobs!
Find a small selection of the best products, hire knowledgeable employees and then when customers come in they are not overwhelmed with options. This makes the buying experience better, and the overall business cheaper. Stock large items in an offsite warehouse and offer cheap home delivery. Why drag a 52″ TV out of the store when for $25 we’ll deliver it, set it up, and remove your old one? You could have one central distribution warehouse for an area in a cheap industrial park, and then be able to afford a number of 1000 square foot retail spaces in the nicer parts of town.
I don’t believe that retail is dead, I believe a model of retail is dead. People are willing to spend more money if they perceive an actual value. What Best Buy and many box stores are doing is that they are destroying the value proposition where they are competitive to try to go after area they cannot compete in. You can’t beat Amazon on price, selection , or delivery. So compete based on knowledgeable staff, personal relationship, and convenience.
Those are just some of my thoughts on this. I see many Mom and Pop shops complaining about the big companies trying to destroy them, but so many times the Mom and Pop shops simply do a piss poor job at retail. Bad selection, bored and undertrained employees, and an overall poor retail experience simply means that customers will focus more and more on price. This is a war neither Mom and Pos shops, nor Best Buy can win at…