For retail lifers, the holiday season is your dowsing rod on the passage of time. You spend one month gearing up, two months sustaining (enduring, really), and a final month winding down, explaining to customers that you just don’t have that damn thing they’re asking for in stock. Still, as someone who has ten (TEN!) of those under my belt, retail holidays were always something to love and hate, both with similar passions. One important aspect was the part-time holiday help who are much like clay: they can be formed to dispense quick advice, redirect customers, ring people out, or simply thrown down as planks when something gives out, then promptly disposed of by February. They don’t need super intense knowledge, but they are necessary to keep the wheels at the store running in a time of stress. This year, Best Buy announced that they’re cutting their holiday hires by half and will have their standard employees go overtime to make up for it. Well, thankfully I don’t work retail anymore.
Ten years of retail experience in good use. Don’t hate.
But at least Best Buy is being up front about it. With issues like the economy, online competition being like it is, gambles that weren’t great, those issues the company has in the other ten months of the year, this is shaping up to be a rough holiday for not only the big blue box, but brick and mortar retailers that don’t have a big “Walmart” plastered on the side. To be honest, I don’t even know how this is going to be affect the customer experience. I remember warehouses full of product that our holiday hires and limited floor space couldn’t disperse. Or using those hires as a friendly filter during the 5AM rush of Black Friday. The Minnesota retailer’s big bank is on services like Geek Squad to be their profit flagship, but at a time of slam-bam customer/employee interaction, the only feasible way to save the profit train is to cut down on some of their biggest store-based expenditures: manpower.
Best Buy’s still getting my money when the Mango phones drop, if the stores ever get them in, but if you’re planning to go tech shopping this holiday, hopefully you’re making a beeline in and out with an explicit list. Otherwise, you’re gonna spend a lot of time in lines next to the piles of awful $10 Wii games or scores of old Tom Cruise films in holiday packaging.