Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said Tuesday that theft is a growing problem in the company’s stores, and the aggressive behavior displayed by shoplifters is “traumatizing” staff members, which has led to retention issues in the otherwise tight labor market.
Barry told Wall Street analysts on a conference call to discuss earnings that criminals often carry in weapons like guns or crowbars and threaten employees and customers. Consumer electronics have reported an increase in organized crime, according to the CEO.
The company has begun locking up products and hiring more security when possible. The safety of individuals will be prioritized over products, said the CEO. Locking up creates a delay in the customer experience as an employee is required to open up an enclosure each time for the customer.
“This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable,” Barry said on the call. “We are doing everything we can to try to create [an] as-safe-as-possible environment.”
A common tactic is a loosely-formed gang of criminals who burst into the store and make off with an entire shelf’s worth of high-value goods, which they then resell. Barry said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that the crime surge has begun to hit the company’s bottom line and its ability to retain staff.
Best Buy has reported fourth-quarterly earnings below expectations although shares have gained nearly 40 percent this year despite the supply chain crisis and resulting shortages.
It’s not just Best Buy that has been affected. Other retailers like CVS Health, Neiman Marcus, Kroger, and Walgreens are also facing similar issues, with Walgreens recently closing down five stores in San Francisco because of aggressive shoplifting.
Barry mentioned that San Francisco and other parts of California were “hot spots” for criminal activity but there were problematic areas in other parts of the country as well.