Retail firms like Best Buy were in danger of collapsing at the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic. Corie Barry, Best Buy’s CEO and her group were very well informed of this. The retail industry was about to transform and consumer and workers welfare immediately became a major concern. On the other side, there were a number of business owners who wanted their workers to work from home, so there was a massive demand on the market for goods which would allow them to work from home.

The management team of Barry and Best Buy knew all this, and had to do something quickly. And they have done just that.

Best Buy recently published its first-quarter results and over the last six weeks of the quarter the company has been able to retain more than 80 percent of its sales.

That might not be such wonderful news, in normal conditions.

But it was incredible under these conditions — particularly since not a single consumer stepped foot in a store during that period.

How did Best Buy do that, then?

In a new interview with Fortune, Barry has shared some of the information and reasoning behind the latest decisions taken by her staff. We see a clever combination of business management and emotional maturity in those lessons.

Here are only a few tips for the company owners and businessmen.

Move Fast

As it was clear that more and more customers were choosing to work and study from home, Barry says the business started to “double down” on stockpiling the items they wanted to do so.

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But how will they deliver those products to customers, who were highly worried regarding their safety?

Within a very short period, Barry and her staff agreed to move their stores to a curbside pickup business model that would enable shoppers to purchase digitally or on the phone and then pick up their products without ever visiting a store.

According to Barry, staff members were able to transfer the front section of many stores into staging areas within 24 hours, prepared for client pick-up purchases.

  • Lesson to take away: As a company owner, it’s easy to get lost in thoughts about how pre-pandemic stuff were, or wishing life would get back to usual as quickly as possible.

But the faster you recognize that the universe has since changed, the faster you can modify your strategies and practices to match the requirements of today and tomorrow.

Listen to your folks

Even because Best Buy was willing to easily implement improvements doesn’t mean that it go off without a delay.

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry

“For the company, that was a really big task,” Barry notes. “We just started rolling out the curbside at 200 stores. So, you can assume the required technology lift, the training … and buy-in from our staff, the ability even physically to create signs and tell these people where to go or what to do.”

So, how did Best Buy allowed its workers to join in? The goal, Barry says, has been to support the store managers and pay attention to their input.

“Each of [the managers with whom I spoke] has a somewhat specific approach about how the curbside functions in their shop,” Barry says. “And it happens, as both of them have flat out wanted to use the resources and their own experience to make things work.”

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As some stores start reopening, Barry says the feedback mechanism is still crucial: having heard from managers what works, what doesn’t work, and what changes can help.

  • Lesson to take away: Recall that your front-line staff members are the ones who understand best about their condition. When designing your plan, make sure you talk with them.

After finishing and offering guidance, then support them to execute it for their situations in the best possible manner.

Show your Empathy

In the Coronavirus pandemic, what was the toughest decision Barry faced so far? The 51,000 staff members need to layoff. But also this choice was taken with careful thought.

For starters, Barry describes, the organization agreed to compensate staff for four weeks given the reality that most of employees would be unable to operate because of closures to the shop. The concept was to have a bridge for paying employee salaries until the moment the federal stimulus program came in.

In addition, Best Buy has been working to offer a site and other tools that help staff members start figuring out how to navigate the jobless registration process, since most of the 51,000 staff members have never done so.

Barry also perceived the significance of empathy when interacting with clients.

For instance, when certain Best Buy retailers have been switching to an appointment-only retail model, representatives of the business will then contact the consumer and establish standards as to how the service operates. The employee states that the consumer will carry a mask (or be equipped with one on entry), and that when they pass into the shop, they must be matched with an associate — generally in one way to ensure social distancing.

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“[The call] is only to lay forth standards around the board as to how the interaction would function,” Barry says. “If we want to stop some sort of ‘in-the-moment’ conflict, the better it is for all to understand.”

  • Lesson to take away: understand, for you or the client, these aren’t just normal situations.

Seek to share this openly with the client when the strategies and procedures shift, and speak with them along as best as you can. You’ll gain trust when you do, and inspire sustained loyalty.

In regards to retail’s future, Barry is also not sure just what that would feel like.

Yet she is confident what it will not look like:

“It does not look like you’re using the retail playbook yesterday to fix complex issues of today. Conversely, I think you’re going to see a combination of experiences that you, as a client, can opt into.”


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