Best Buy Co. Inc., trying to reverse slumping store sales, is reassigning about 2,000 loss-prevention employees in its U.S. locations to focus on selling customers more merchandise.
Employees who greeted shoppers entering Best Buy's big-box stores and checked receipts when they left will join the ranks of the company's blue-shirted sales force, said Kelly Groehler, a spokeswoman for the Richfield-based company. No workers are being fired, she said.
Chief Executive Hubert Joly, who took over last week, is seeking to revive sales as customers defect to Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Comparable-store sales at Best Buy, the world's largest consumer-electronics retailer, have advanced only once in the past nine quarters, hurting profitability.
"Negative comps and declining margins -- you don't need to be an expert in anything to know that these are not great things," Joly said in an interview last week. "There's a significant investment in training at the front line."
Best Buy operated 1,062 big-box stores in the United States as of Aug. 4.
Complaints by customers, as well Best Buy's attempt to increase interactions between managers and consumers, led to the workers' reassignment, Groehler said in a telephone interview.
"Customers told us they did not like having their receipts checked when they left the store," she said. "It puts more emphasis on assistant managers and the general manager of the store engaging with customers when they walk in."
The focus on loss prevention hasn't diminished, Groehler said, while declining to elaborate on those efforts.
Wal-Mart earlier this year moved greeters from the entrances of its stores to near the cash registers to direct shoppers to products or shorter checkout lines. The world's largest retailer also has been seeking to boost sales and profit margins.
Best Buy's revenue is expected to decline 2.9 percent to $49.2 billion in its current fiscal year, the average of 19 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company had increased annual revenue every year since it started trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market in 1985, according to Sue Busch, a company spokeswoman.
Founder Richard Schulze is seeking to take the company private and reached an agreement with the board last month allowing him to conduct due diligence and bring a proposal to the company within 60 days. After stepping down as chairman in June, Schulze offered on Aug. 6 to take the retailer private at $24 to $26 a share.
Best Buy shares fell 1.4 percent to close Thursday at $18.32. The shares have tumbled 22 percent this year, on pace for the fourth annual decline in five years.