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Best Buy trims jobs as sales of electronics slump following pandemic surge

Shoppers visit a Best Buy to find deals during Black Friday, in Toronto on November 26, 2021. Best Buy, the country's biggest consumer electronics chain, is laying off close to one per cent of its workforce, estimated to be about 700 employees. Anna LeGresley, a spokeswoman for Best Buy Canada, says the company made the difficult decision to say goodbye to some team members. She says the job losses come as the retailer works to "support our stores and serve our customers." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

Best Buy, one of the country's largest consumer electronics retailers, is laying off about 0.7 per cent of its workforce, estimated to be about 700 employees.

Anna LeGresley, a spokeswoman for Best Buy Canada, said in an email Wednesday that the job losses come as the chain works to "support our stores and serve our customers."

LeGresley said some staff have also moved to different stores.

It's unclear whether the restructuring includes any store closures.

Best Buy did not share whether the job losses are in both Canada and the U.S., or whether the layoffs include corporate office employees in addition to retail workers. 

Lior Samfiru, a partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said his Toronto-based law firm has been contacted by a number of former Best Buy Canada employees in various roles across the country who claim to have been let go as part of restructuring. 

"We are still assessing their initial severance offers before they accept them to ensure that they haven’t been wrongfully dismissed," he said. "Even when a business is experiencing difficulties, employers are legally required to provide full compensation."

Proper severance takes into consideration factors such as time spent with the employer, a person's income, their age and commission and bonus considerations, Samfiru said. 

While stores often shed temporary staff after the busy holiday season, the Best Buy layoffs appear to be more than usual. 

At the end of fiscal 2022, Best Buy employed approximately 105,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, according to the company's annual report. It said its workforce is about 55 per cent full-time employees, 35 per cent part-time employees and 10 per cent seasonal occasional employees.

The layoffs come after a round of job cuts last August, estimated to have affected hundreds of workers predominantly in the U.S.

Best Buy, which is publicly traded, has seen sales soften following the elevated demand for electronics during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a statement following the company's third-quarter earnings release in November, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said it is "clearly a challenging environment for our industry."

"Throughout the quarter, we were committed to balancing our near-term response to current conditions and managing well what is in our control, while also advancing our strategic initiatives and investing in areas important for our long-term growth," she said in a statement.

Best Buy recorded net earnings of $277 million for the three months ended Oct. 29, down from $499 million during the same period a year earlier.  

"Best Buy isn’t the only retailer suffering from the slump in electronics; there has been a general slowdown across the whole market," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, said in a client note last November. 

Still, despite softening demand, he said Best Buy continues to gain a modest amount of market share and is in "a good long term position."

"We remain satisfied that the company has the right strategies in place to manage itself through this more challenging period," Saunders said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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