Best Buy said it will gradually reopen its doors to customers with in-store consultations by appointment.
Starting in May, the company said it will allow shoppers to schedule a time to meet with a dedicated sales associate to talk about technology needs, discuss a potential purchase of a kitchen appliance or more. It will begin by offering the service at about 200 of its 1,000 U.S. stores, the company said in a news release.
Best Buy's CEO Corie Barry sent an email to customers Tuesday afternoon, saying the retailer will also resume in-home delivery, installation and repairs — but with new safety precautions. Those services will return in early May, company spokeswoman Carly Charlson said.
The announcements indicate the big-box retailer is trying to get its stores and more of its workers back to business. During the coronavirus pandemic, Best Buy temporarily shut stores to customers, shifted to a curbside pickup model and suspended all in-home services. Earlier this month, it furloughed about 51,000 employees — nearly all of its part-time workers and some of its full-time ones.
With the new consultations, the retailer is hoping to boost store sales. Customers can make an appointment by phone, online or in the company's app. They'll get an appointment confirmation and a text and email reminder. Before their appointment, an employee will call the customer to explain how the consultation works.
Shopping will look different once customers get to stores, the company said. A dedicated employee will shop with each customer, but remain socially distanced. If customers want to try a product, the employee will wipe it down, let them try it and then wipe it again. The employee will escort each customer to the register and later out of the store.
To keep employees and customers safe, Best Buy said it's adopted new safety measures for the consultations: All employees will wear gloves and masks that are provided by the company. They will be required to do a health check before each shift with a new app developed by the company. Signs will encourage social distancing. Sneeze guards will be near the front registers. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available for customers. And surfaces will be cleaned before and after each appointment.
Best Buy saw an initial increase in sales as customers bought items for long stays at home, including computer monitors for home offices, technology for remote learning and freezers for additional food storage. Sales leveled off and declined as the company temporarily closed stores to customers and stay-at-home orders took effect in much of the U.S.
Barry said the company has retained about 70% of its sales compared with last year, even as stores switched to curbside pickup and employees stopped all home visits. She said online sales in the U.S. are up more than 250%, and about half of those sales are picked up at its stores.
In a video message announcing the furloughs on April 15, Barry said the retailer has focused on keeping customers safe, protecting jobs for as many employees as possible and making sure the company is "well-positioned to thrive in what will almost certainly be a new and very different environment."
Few retailers have shared their plans for what the shopping experience will be like when stores reopen. However, Simon Property, the largest U.S. mall owner, has begun its preparations to begin reopening 49 of its malls and outlet centers. The company said it will make temperature testing and masks available to customers and is taking steps to make it easier for customers to space themselves out while shopping.