Best Buy on Monday named Corie Barry as its new chief executive, making her the first woman to lead the consumer electronics giant and one of the youngest CEOs of a top U.S. company.
Barry, 43, has been with Best Buy for two decades and played several key roles in helping outgoing CEO Hubert Joly revive the Richfield-based company in the face of intense competition from online rivals. She will begin her new duties June 11.
While Barry takes over at a time of momentum, which she calls a “luxury,” she said the company must continue to evolve because retail disruption is unlikely to end anytime soon.
“Expectations as a customer are constantly rising,” Barry said, whether for a longtime retailer or an online aggregator. “There is no room for mediocrity in retail.”
Joly, who becomes executive chairman, said he will help with external and government relations, leadership development and anything else Barry asks him to do.
With the company stable financially and a more-than-capable leadership team in place, he said, he made the decision that this was the right time professionally to put his succession plan in place.
When Best Buy lays out strategic plans for the next phase of growth at an investors day in September, Joly said he wanted Wall Street to see the leaders who will make that plan happen.
Barry, having been promoted to executive vice president of transformation and finance in November, has been intimately involved in crafting Best Buy’s next steps. So has Mike Mohan, who following the company’s annual meeting on June 11 will add president to his chief operating officer title.
Joly, 59, called leading Best Buy “the greatest honor and delight of my professional career.” Yet to lead a company is never a 9-to-5 or even 9-to-9 job, he said, and he has been doing it for 20 years now. “These are all-the-time jobs,” he said in an interview.
With grown children in Paris and Dubai and a new grandchild, he would like to slow down a bit. “Hubert has done a tremendous job leading Best Buy’s turnaround, assembling a deep team of talented leaders and instilling a clear strategy for future growth and lasting success,” said Russell Fradin, Best Buy’s lead independent director and a board member since 2013, in a statement. “We are confident that Corie and Mike are perfectly suited … to drive Best Buy into the next phase of its transformation.”
Barry’s “wealth of experience at Best Buy is unmatched,” Joly said.
Analysts both lauded Joly for the changes at Best Buy during his tenure and cautioned of continuing challenges in the sector. The stock was nearly unchanged with the announcement — a big change from when Barry was named as CFO in 2016.
That day, partly because her predecessor Sharon McCollam was seen as a key leader at the company, the stock dipped 7%. Barry said she keeps the day’s results framed in her office to keep her humble.
It also was different from when Joly was hired and the retail world wondered how his background in the hospitality industry prepared him for the job.
At the time, the last CEO had been ousted for having an inappropriate relationship. Best Buy founder Richard Schulze was trying to buy the company back. And the consumer electronics chain was faltering in the marketplace. Joly was the first outsider to lead the company, just as he had been the first nonfamily member in his previous job as chief executive of the Carlson hospitality company.
Joly then figured out with his team how Best Buy could reinvent itself during one of the biggest retail disruptions ever.
Over the past four years, annual earnings per share have nearly doubled. Same-store sales comparisons have risen for eight consecutive quarters. And Joly has changed the mind-set of the company: Instead of selling electronics, Best Buy will help to fulfill customers’ needs through technology. He likes to call it the “happiness” business.
Still, while the company is “sound and stable,” analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData said Best Buy “operates in a very challenging part of retail that is characterized by wafer-thin margins, a lot of shopping around, and where loyalty is often given to electronics brands over which retailers they are purchased from.”
The company will need to find new avenues of growth, probably in the services area, as a “slowdown in innovation in consumer electronics is a constant worry,” he said. And it also will need to continually evaluate its stores — whether more investment is needed and whether all of them are needed.
Barry has worked her entire career at Best Buy, aside from two years at Deloitte & Touche just after graduating from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.
“I could not have been more honored and humbled,” at being elevated to CEO, Barry said in an interview.
She sees Best Buy continuing to put more of an emphasis on in-home adviser services, a new health care monitoring business and the technology and staffing that are needed to allow people to shop the way they want, whether it is in a store or online. It also means continuing partnerships with companies from Samsung and Apple to Amazon to provide expertise to customers when they shop.
The retail disruption, which will no doubt continue, means “constantly reinventing yourself.” However, the new strategies always must come back to the mission of helping people with technology, she said.
For example, with the $800 million acquisition of California-based Great Call, Best Buy sees an opportunity to help seniors stay in their homes using monitors, backed by a call center. Barry sees those monitors expanding into a “concierge” service to help people access a broad array of consumer services.
Barry also sees opportunities in sensors that can alert family members if a senior’s routine changes, possibly signaling a medical issue.