CNBC Original Anchored by CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen Takes a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Best Buy, a Company in Transition and Fighting to Stay Relevant in a Digital World
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., January 9, 2012—What does a huge corporation do when its fortunes—and future—are threatened? With nearly 1100 stores, Best Buy is considered the “last man standing” among national electronics retailers. With its iconic blue and yellow logo, the sprawling chain managed to outmaneuver tough competitors like Circuit City, Comp USA and others, only to face a new set of challengers. Major retail discounters like Costco and Walmart have chipped away at Best Buy’s bottom line, while Amazon and other online retailers have changed the way people shop, threatening the big box model.
On Thursday, January 19th at 9PM ET/PT, CNBC presents “Best Buy: The Big Box Fights Back,” a CNBC Original reported by Tyler Mathisen. The documentary takes an unprecedented look inside a company at a crossroads, fighting to stay on top and avoid becoming a showroom for shoppers armed with smart phone apps and other tools capable of finding lower prices in an instant.
Despite bringing in $50-billion in annual revenue and selling nearly one of every three televisions purchased in the U.S., Best Buy finds itself fighting the stiffest competition yet in its 45-year history. While some analysts see cause for optimism, others point to the company’s staggering real estate costs and question whether key Best Buy executives fully appreciate the threat they face. Mathisen profiles CEO Brian Dunn, who insists he’s acutely aware of the dangers that lie ahead, and says Best Buy can thrive by focusing on service through its knowledgeable blue-shirt sales force and tech-savvy Geek Squad. As a 27-year veteran of Best Buy, Dunn has faced his share of challenges at the company, making the rare climb from floor salesman all the way to the executive suite.
Although Best Buy’s cavernous stores are brimming with more than 17,000 items, including the latest smartphones and flat screen televisions, they are also full of savvy shoppers who can now scan items on the spot using those same smartphones to instantly sniff out lower prices. With this newfound ability to comparison shop, some critics say Best Buy will find it harder to compete on price, given its huge stores, heavy payroll costs, and high overhead. Dunn says he plans to shrink some of the big box stores, and is also touting the chain’s new “Connected Store” concept, a user-friendly, interactive reconfiguration of the big box, intended to help consumers navigate an increasingly complex array of devices. But will it be enough to get the “millennials” in the store and spend money?
The documentary goes behind-the-scenes as store managers and employees prepare for the onslaught of Black Friday—the company’s biggest money making day of the year. CNBC also takes viewers inside Geek Squad City, a massive Kentucky warehouse that’s home to 1,200 agents who repair up to 4000 battered and broken devices a day. This is what Best Buy considers ground zero in its fight to beat the competition through expertise, service and end-to-end customer care.
Mathisen also travels to China, where Best Buy is pinning its hopes on global expansion. After losing more than $200 million last year in key overseas markets, the company is shuttering all of its big boxes in China, as it will do in the U.K. and Turkey, and has instead taken over a local retailer called Five Star. The controlling stake in Five Star may be Best Buy’s best and only shot at cracking the largest consumer market in the world.
For more information and special web exclusives log onto: bestbuy.cnbc.com.
Mitch Weitzner is the Senior Executive Producer of “Best Buy: The Big Box Fights Back.” Mary Noonan is the Senior Producer. Hakimah Shah, Bob Waldman, and Steven Schnee are producers. Ray Borelli is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Research, Scheduling and Long Form Programming.
CNBC’s “Best Buy: The Big Box Fights Back” will repeat that evening at 10PM ET/PT.
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