Best Buy CEO Says Rising Theft Reduces Profits And Could Hurt Employee Retention

Best Buy CEO Corey Barry said on Tuesday that the rise in theft is negatively affecting the company’s bottom line and could hurt employee retention at a time when labor markets are tight, especially in retail.

She said there has been a marked surge in organized crime in retail, with people coming to stores to steal consumer electronics and, in some cases, carrying weapons such as a pistol or crowbar. She said the company will prioritize the safety of customers and employees, even if that means criminals are rushing out the door with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

“This is a traumatic experience and it is happening more and more often across the country,” she told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.

Other retailers, including Kroger, CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, also reported an increase in theft. Walgreens said it is even closing some stores because of this.

“To fight organized crime, Best Buy is blocking some of its merchandise, hiring security guards at specific locations, and working with retail groups to find solutions,” Barry said in a phone call.

She said that San Francisco and other parts of California were hot spots for crime, but that there are trouble spots all over the country. According to her, in some cases, more than a dozen people break into the store, and they run out of the store with goods. In other cases, it is only a couple of people.

Two Nordstrom stores in California opened last week. are pursued by groups of marauders in these types of robberies using the “smash and take” method

Barry said she does not understand why the crime has increased, but it is difficult to stop them. The retailer discourages its employees from confronting thieves, and in some cases, law enforcement prioritizes other types of crime.

“When we talk about why so many people are looking for other jobs or changing careers, it would certainly play a role in my concern for our people, because, again, human safety is the first priority,” she said. “And it’s hard to deal with it potentially multiple times in one place.”

Best Buy beat expectations for fiscal third-quarter earnings, but shares fell on Tuesday as Wall Street worries about weakening consumer electronics demand, stronger promotions and higher supply chain costs in the coming year.

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