Best Buy Adopts Home-Delivery Plan That Flopped at Walmart

Best Buy Co. thinks it can succeed where rival Walmart Inc. failed: by asking its store employees to deliver online orders to customers’ homes.

The consumer-electronics retailer said Thursday that its employees, nicknamed “Blue Shirts,” are handling some e-commerce deliveries. They are trained, and arrive in company-branded vehicles, Chief Executive Officer Corie Barry said on a call with reporters. The move will help the retailer cope with the surge in digital orders, which are often fulfilled through its stores, and also give staff the opportunity to develop new skills.

This has been tried before, and not successfully. At its June 2017 annual shareholder meeting, Walmart said it would ask employees to deliver packages on their way home from their shifts, aiming to use its massive workforce and sprawling network of U.S. stores to match Inc.’s convenient options for web purchases.

Best Buy Adopts Home-Delivery Plan That Flopped at Walmart

Walmart had high hopes for the last-mile test, which it conducted in New Jersey and Arkansas, using employees’ own vehicles. But it quietly ended the service less than a year later, as some workers didn’t feel like adding more tasks to an already taxing job, while others worried about having an accident in their own car.

Best Buy’s approach -- which began with little fanfare during last year’s holiday season -- will be different, Barry said. Employees can choose to grab some deliveries during their shift, in lieu of their regular in-store tasks, she said. Liability for accidents won’t be the employees’ concern as they’ll drive company-owned vehicles. Also, customers are more used to having Best Buy staffers show up at their doorstep, thanks to its existing home-installation and tech-repair services.

Employees won’t just drop off packages, Chief Operating Officer Mike Mohan said on a call with analysts. They might encourage the resident to sign up for the retailer’s new membership program, or even get one of Best Buy’s in-home sales consultants to drop by later to recommend a home-theater system or a new kitchen appliance.

What’s unknown, thus far, is how much employees will be paid for the deliveries. The company already pays a starting wage of at least $15 an hour in the U.S.

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