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How Retailers Need to Rethink Holiday Shopping – According to Best Buy CEO

Laura Macdonald

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As part of the CTA’s Retail Council, I had the good fortune last week of listening in on a conversation between CTA President Gary Shapiro and Best Buy CEO Corie Barry about the impact that COVID-19 has had on their business. While overall, Best Buy has been able to weather the COVID-19 storm better than most businesses, Corie explained that they had to make decisions decisively to ensure they were doing right for employees and customers. With these learnings, Corie was able to outline how they were looking forward to handling the holiday season at Best Buy, and what she predicted for the whole retail industry. 

Looking ahead, Corie reinforces other insights that retailers would be approaching the holiday season by starting early and staying late. She explained that they are seeing the holiday season spread out over more time, and there won’t be the same huge shopping peaks such as Black Friday – particularly for retailers with stores who will be wanting to avoid having huge crowds descend on their outlets while they attempt to keep social distancing in place. Instead, Corie predicts there will be lots of mini events throughout the holiday season, allowing people to shop safely and still getting great deals. 

Specifically, Corie outlined four key elements of how the retail industry will need to rethink how it does business in Holiday 2020: 

  1. Choice: The closing down of in-store shopping at the beginning of the pandemic opened people’s eyes to the ability to shop in different ways. Now, we’re seeing that individual behaviors about the pandemic are very varied – while some people were excited to go back into stores, others are still remaining at home as much as possible and only want to have items delivered. Retailers will need to keep offering customers the choice to shop how they want and when they want to succeed this season.
  2. Speed: Retailers had to move very quickly to open up new ways of shopping, and bring new products to market. Corie explained that at Best Buy they had to change systems in just six months, where they’d previously forecasted three years for such a shift. Retailers will need to continue to respond at speed to customer behavior and demand, to avoid getting left behind during the holidays.
  3. Enterprise mindset: No, Best Buy isn’t going B2B, but Corie emphasized that retailers need to stop thinking about different strategies for different channels, and instead take an enterprise-level approach to retail focused on creating the best possible – from safety to convenience to savings – experience for customers wherever, and however they choose to shop.
  4. Flexibility: What will happen in the next few months remains unknown and things could change very dramatically. Retailers will need to adopt a flexible mindset to everything, particularly for workforces that typically scale up during the holiday season. They’ll need to offer staff flexible models, with working from home being made available where possible, to ensure employees and customers survive the holiday season. 

For everyone involved in holiday shopping– from supply chain to manufacturers, retailers to customers themselves – this is going to be a holiday season unlike any other. Getting insights from how Best Buy is approaching this holiday season gives a good steer for how everyone will need to rethink traditional approaches, adapt quickly throughout the season, and take a flexible mindset to not only survive this holiday season, but thrive.

For more on the key trends shaping the future of retail, download our report here or check out The Retail HOTLine.