Hubert Joly, Best Buy CEO.

In 2012 Best Buy Co. Inc. hit the doldrums of retail. The company had been doing well but was now in danger of being swallowed whole by Inc. and it seemed like investors were counting the days until the company fizzled out. Best Buy wasn’t the only casualty of Amazon’s blazing trail, but they were one of the largest and most well-known. Customers likely found themselves asking why they should bother with Best Buy in the first place. Their stores were packed to the brim with merchandise, but it was hard to find a desired item. Employees were helpful, but they were stuck trying to inform customers while also upselling. Shoppers were using Best Buy as an information source and as a chance to get a feel for a product before they went home and bought it from Amazon.  The writing was on the wall, but one man refused to see it: Hubert Joly.

Joly became the CEO of Best Buy in 2012 and it was a puzzling decision as many asked why Joly would choose to captain a sinking ship. Joly was eager to prove himself and he believed in Best Buy’s products and people. Joly would need to hit multiple home runs and couldn’t afford to play it safe in the retail space. What could have been a career ending decision turned into one of the greatest retail turnarounds in history. Joly couldn’t have known this was going to happen, but he believed that Best Buy was here to stay.

Joly’s first order of business was deciding what exactly Best Buy stood for. At the time, the company was offering products that were outdated with a significant markup, which effectively cut them out of any market share. A technophile would rather build their own PC from cheaper parts located online and a family looking for a simple computer could find better pre-built machines elsewhere. Most employees understood that products were overpriced but were unable to convince consumers to spend more. Joly changed all this by renewing the company’s focus on two key pillars: products and employees. Joly wanted Best Buy to have the latest tech and partnered with new technology suppliers to avoid selling products that were already a year old. Tech enthusiasts would still choose to build their own computers, but Best Buy was now a competitive place to shop for those parts. Families, and those more interested in convenience, could get exactly what they wanted from a range of products including desktops for work or gaming laptops. He fixed products high price points by improving supply contracts and enabling his employees to price match. This kept customers in-store and made employees feel that their knowledge was being put to good use. Price matching was just the first step in giving more to employees. Joly cut costs without cutting salaries and massive layoffs. He valued their expertise and instituted an installation program for certain purchases. Even if a customer could find a better price on a TV and surround sound system at Amazon, they wouldn’t have the option of paying a nominal fee for an expert installation. Joly was able to appeal to customers seeking convenience and the more discerning purveyor of electronics with a few key moves.

Joly had what it takes to thrive in retail. He understood he was in an industry that was struggling, but he also realized he was selling technology products that were the future. Joly stepped down this year as CEO and Corie Barry has been named his successor. Joly will still be part of the company as the Executive Chairman and Barry will look to continue his legacy. The fight to survive Amazon and save retail is far from over and Best Buy will look to continue its strategy of providing the best technology along with unmatched employee expertise.

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