Customers and staff heading to Victoria’s two Best Buy locations Thursday morning were met with closed doors and security guards, as Best Buy Canada closed seven Best Buy stores and eight Future Shops.
Brown paper covered glass doors at Best Buy locations at Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich and West Shore Town Centre in Langford. Security guards handed information pamphlets to customers and ushered employees into the store at the start of their shifts.
According to one of the guards, employees only found out about the closing as they arrived for work.
The pamphlets directed customers to Future Shop locations at Uptown and on McCallum Drive in Langford.
Calls to both Greater Victoria locations and the Best Buy in Nanaimo were re-routed to Future Shop and contact information for the closed stores was removed from Best Buy’s website by 10 a.m.
“I woke up to a text that I had lost my job,” said 18-year-old Shelby Ross, who had worked at Best Buy in Nanaimo since 2009.
Another Nanaimo employee, who asked not to be named, called the process unfair. “It was very cold — I went to get my stuff and they had to follow me around the store to make sure I wasn’t going to take anything,” said the five-year veteran of the retailer.
Best Buy stores in Canada are a division of Burnaby-based Best Buy Canada, a subsidiary of Best Buy Co. Inc., which also owns Future Shop. Along with Best Buy stores on the Island, the closings affect two locations each in the Lower Mainland and Quebec. Future Shop stores being closed include one in B.C., in West Kelowna; also closing are two in Quebec, one in Manitoba, one in Calgary and three in Ontario.
The company’s head office did not return calls Thursday. A news release called the closings part of a “transformational strategy.”
Best Buy said over the next 36 months, it plans to open smaller Future Shop stores and Best Buy Mobile locations. The company has been facing tough competition from discounters and online retailers, a victim of what’s known as “showrooming” — when people browse in stores, then buy products more cheaply online from competitors such as Amazon.
Best Buy announced last March that it was closing 50 stores in the U.S.
Geoff Archer, professor and director of the Eric C. Douglass Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Royal Roads University, wasn’t surprised by the Canadian closings. “A company who rents expensive real estate in enormous quantities on long-term contracts cannot really be flexible, and when margins move to smaller devices, as they are now, they will be dying to move to a smaller-format store.”
Archer said Best Buy may have been its own worst enemy, setting up shop in such close proximity to other retailers such as Future Shop and Walmart, as it did at Uptown.
Best Buy would not provide local numbers, but said 900 employees will be laid off because of the closings — about five per cent of Best Buy Canada’s workforce.
The company still operates 120 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile and 140 Future Shop stores across the country.
With a file from Nanaimo Daily News
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News release issued by Best Buy:
Best Buy Canada Announces Real Estate Optimization Plan in First Phase of Transformational Strategy - Best Buy Canada
January 31, 2013 | Burnaby, BC
Renew Blue Focus towards enhanced customer experience through modernized multi-channel approach
(Burnaby, BC) January 31, 2013 – Best Buy Canada today launched the first phase of a long-term transformational strategy to optimize the company’s retail footprint across the country. As part of this transformational plan, Best Buy will permanently close 8 Future Shop and 7 Best Buy Big Box stores today in select markets nationwide.
Over the next 36 months, Best Buy will move into the second phase of the “Renew Blue” strategy and plans to open state-of-the-art new Future Shop Small-Concept web stores and new Best Buy Mobile locations across Canada, where and when appropriate. This move will enable the company to better serve its customers in both more locations and smaller markets across the country. The move was based on an extensive review of Best Buy’s retail footprint in Canada in an effort to reduce unnecessary costs, eliminate redundant operating systems and to optimize its real estate strategy to reflect a more a changing retail landscape.
Employees affected by the Best Buy and Future Shop store closures will receive severance support as well as access to employee assistance programs and career transition support. Hiring priority will also be offered to previous employees across the country affected by today’s announcement.
Best Buy has established a webpage and toll-free number for consumer questions related to the closures including additional questions about their purchases or services. Best Buy Canada continues to operate more than 120 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations combined with over 140 Future Shop stores across the country.
Consumers can go to www.bestbuy.ca or www.futureshop.ca or call toll-free 1-800-237-8289 (Best Buy) or 1-800-663-2275 (Future Shop) for more information.
The following stores are immediately closing as a result of the current real-estate optimization plan:
• Best Buy stores in Queensborough, Nanaimo, Victoria, Langford (Westshore Town Centre), and South Surrey, British Columbia; and Lachenaie, and Sherbrooke (SmartCentres Sherbrooke), Quebec.
• Future Shop stores in West Kelowna, British Columbia; Montreal (Forum Entertainment Center), Laval (First Pro Ste-Dorothee), Quebec; Regent, Manitoba; Macleod, Calgary; as well as Ancaster, Barrie South and Erin Mills, Ontario.
For more information about Best Buy and Future Shop, including store locations, visit www.BestBuy.ca
About Best Buy Canada
Best Buy and Future Shop stores in Canada are a division of Burnaby, BC-based Best Buy Canada Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY). We are Canada's fastest-growing retailers and e-tailers of consumer electronics, computers and entertainment products. With over 120 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile and 140 Future Shop stores across Canada, we offer a unique shopping experience with the latest technology and entertainment products, at the right price. For information about Best Buy Canada, visit www.BestBuy.ca
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