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Best Buy CEO says rising theft is hitting profits, could hurt employee retention

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On April 15, 2020, a nearly empty lot stood in front of the Best Buy Montebello store. The electronics chain’s nationwide store is still closed but available for pick-ups.

Frederic J. Getty Images| AFP | Getty Images

Best BuyCorie Barry, CEO of the company said Tuesday that increasing theft was affecting the company’s profit margins and could lead to lower employee retention in a labor market where there is limited supply.

She said the retailer has seen a noticeable jump in organized crime, with people coming to stores to steal consumer electronics — and in some cases, bringing a weapon like a gun or a crowbar. Even if criminals run out with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, she said that the company would prioritize safety for customers and employees.

She said that these are “traumatic experiences” and are more common in the United States. “Squawk on the Street.”

Others retailers include Kroger, CVS HealthAnd Walgreens Boots Alliance, have also spoken about an increase in theft — with Walgreens even saying it is closing certain stores because of it.

Barry stated that Best Buy will lock up certain merchandise and hire security guards at specific locations to fight organized crime. He also said that it is working with retailers trade groups in order to find solutions.

Although she stated that San Francisco and California were “hot spots” because of the crime, there are still problematic areas across the country. She said that sometimes more than 12 people rush into a shop and leave empty-handed. Sometimes it is just one person.

The past week saw two NordstromCalifornia stores have been targeted by groups of looters in these types of “smash-and-grab” robberies.

Barry admitted that although she doesn’t know why crime has increased, it is difficult for her to prevent them from happening again. Retailer discourages employees from confronting thieves. In some cases law enforcement may prioritize other types of crime.

She stated that when we look at the reasons people want to switch careers or find other work, it would naturally be something I would consider. “Priority one is safety and human life.” It’s difficult to handle this potential multiple times at once in one place.

Best Buy topped expectations for fiscal third-quarter earningsHowever, shares fell as Wall Street fears about a weakening consumer electronics market, increased promotion levels and higher supply-chain costs for the coming year.

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