Wired argues that the decline of Best Buy’s business is linked to the decline of exurbia generally:
You can’t trace a precisely parallel line charting Best Buy’s decline alongside exurbia’s economic cratering. Technology and consumer preference have also taken a toll. Sales of physical media like DVDs and the players to play them have dropped as consumers stream more and more movies and music. Apple stores have seduced customers with a boutique approach that Best Buy plans to copy in some locations. Amazon and other online retailers have likely siphoned even more.
Despite these factors, the twilight gathering around Best Buy feels more than anything like part of the darkness that snuffed out the exurban dream. These signature outposts of [David] Brooks’ new world [described in his 2004 book On Paradise Drive] filled new homes with flatscreens bought with home equity loans that have since left victims of the crash drowning in debt. Like so many exurban homeowners, Best Buy banked on false promises of perpetual prosperity as contrary economic realities lurked.
I would also add that Best Buy has has to contend with expanded (and cheaper) electronics offerings at other big box stores, notably Walmart and Target. Given the number of factors involved, is it really fair to characterize this as a “exurban problem”?
Two sociologists have published a study in the American Sociological Review that shows that employees at Best Buy’s headquarters benefit from flex schedules:
Sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen said a flexible work schedule that focuses on results and not just activity cut turnover at Best Buy’s Richfield headquarters by 45 percent while improving productivity.
The flex schedules, they said, cut down on stress and work interruptions due to personal issues because employees were able to find a better balance between their work and home lives…
The U of M study followed 600 workers for eight months after the start of the program, 300 who worked under the flex plan and 300 who continued working the traditional 9-5 day…
The study showed that 6 percent of the employees working under the flex plan left Best Buy during the study period, while 11 percent of the control group left during that time. Also, the results were about the same regardless of gender, age, tenure, job satisfaction, and stage of life.
Turnover can be a problem for companies who then have to hire new employees and train them so cutting turnover even five percent is no small matter.
Based on the success of the program, Best Buy has changed some of their practices:
The research showed that the flex program led to Best Buy getting rid of “low-value work,” such as unnecessary meetings. The researchers said staff and supervisors started re-considering their work patterns, figuring out what activities were the most productive.
It would be interesting to see exactly how the employees in the flex program talk about these changes. And I would be interested in hearing more about this trade-off in a company stressing results rather than activity – are there downsides to this?