December 21, 2006, - 2:50 pm

Chick-ification Nation: Guys No Longer Welcome at Best Buy (“Breast Buy”?)

By Debbie Schlussel
Hey, Guys, remember that store, “Best Buy,” where you used to buy your electronic gadgets? Well, you’re no longer welcome.
After reading today’s USA Today article on the feminization of Best Buy, perhaps a name change is in order: Breast Buy. Men, you are out–and uteruses (uteri?)–are in at the mass-retailer.
Read these excerpts. Best Buy looking for sales associates from Victoria’s Secret? Low, soft music? Affirmative action for female hiring and promotions? Huh? Is this an electronics store or the set of ABC yenta-fest “The View”?:

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Best Buy Now = Breast Buy; Guys Not Wanted

“We were a boy’s toy store designed for boys by boys,” says Julie Gilbert, vice president of Best Buy.
Well, no more. The “feminization” of the consumer electronics business is underway.
Instead of hitting high-tech hysteria at Best Buy (BBY) this holiday season, shoppers may notice a softer, more personal atmosphere. Music is quieter. Lights are lower. Salespeople talk to customers about their lifestyles . . . .
Aisles have been widened so baby strollers fit through easily. And more stores are displaying little living rooms with wide-screen TVs and surround-sound speakers to show customers what the equipment will look like in their homes.
Women now influence 90% of consumer electronics purchases, from the type and look of the big-screen TV to the color of the iPod speakers for the living room, Best Buy says. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates their influence is less, but still significant and growing. It says women influence 57% of purchases, or $80 billion of the $140 billion spent on consumer electronics this year. . . .
“Women likely will notice and appreciate some of the changes more.”
About four years ago Best Buy realized that women were warming up to technology. . . .
Overnight, it seemed, consumer electronics became a design element. . . . “The products we sell and the services we sell are about trends and fashion.”
Best Buy executives started focusing on feedback from female shoppers, and it wasn’t good. Many women felt that the sales staff – the “Blue Shirts” that tended to be young men – were dismissive.
“Women couldn’t get anyone to help them,” Gilbert says. “They weren’t treated with respect.”

This constant whine from women is total BS. I’ve never had a problem getting anyone–at Best Buy (er . . . Breast Buy) or elsewhere–to take my money. Puh-leeze. Some of these women want a psychologist or hairdresser, not someone who’s selling them an IPod.

So in 2002, the company embarked on an ambitious “customer-centric” plan that started out with four distinct personalities for its stores to focus on. It gave the personalities names like Barry (an affluent tech enthusiast); Jill (a busy suburban mom); Buzz (a young gadget fiend) and Ray (a price-conscious family guy).
In 2005, 40% of 300 stores it redecorated were aimed at Barry, with a separate home-theater department and specialists in mobile electronics. Jill stores had personal shopping assistants for busy moms. Buzz stores had lots of video games, and Ray stores focused on low prices. Some stores had two or more personas going at once.
“We’ve evolved since then,” says spokeswoman Dawn Bryant. . . .
Eventually, all of its nearly 750 U.S. stores will be revamped with a softer, more user-friendly decor and more personalized services, basically the Jill model. Some stores have been completely redesigned, while others have undergone only small changes so far. . . .

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New Best Buy Slogan?

Best Buy decided to expand the number of stores with Magnolia displays from 127 to 300 this year. And they included more lower-priced TV systems in the displays, too.
“Women are drawn to flat-panel TVs,” Gilbert says. “They want that big, clunky TV out of the living room.”
To lure more female shoppers, Best Buy also is changing its workforce. . . .
The company is pushing to add more female Blue Shirts and store general managers. About 25% of its U.S. employees are women. Though that percentage hasn’t changed, the total number of employees has risen, so more women are employed at Best Buy.
The company also is beginning to promote more women. Since January, it has increased the number of female store general managers by 4% and the number of women in training to be general managers by 4%. It has doubled the number of women working in home theater departments in the past four months, it says. . . .
“Women consumers are seeing a lot more women in our stores, and that makes it less frightening and less intimidating,” says Anna Gallina, general manager of Best Buy’s North Palm Beach, Fla., store, which has 40% female employees. [DS: Huh? I've never been "frightened" or "intimidated" shopping at Best Buy. What are these conniptive, hysterical women talking about?!] She says she’s seen big changes in the company since she joined 10 years ago as assistant manager of a store in Miami. . . .
To find more female employees, the company has started recruiting not just from electronics competitors – such as Wal-Mart, Target and Circuit City – but from other types of retailers. “We’re recruiting from Nordstrom’s, Victoria’s Secret, Origins or other stores where women love to shop,” Bryant says. “We can teach them about consumer electronics. But we want them to understand and be excited about women’s lifestyles.”
Gilbert, who has helped direct the feminization of Best Buy, also leads 22 groups of about 25 female employees each who meet once a month. The women are from all ranks of the company, and the groups’ goals are to build leadership skills, network and push innovation through the company. The so-called wolf packs are part of a strategy to train, support and promote women within Best Buy.
Their goal is for 50% of the workforce to be women, including one day the CEO, says Gilbert, whose title is vice president of Women’s Leadership Forum (WoLF) and Entrepreneurial Initiatives.
“We’re working with the Girl Scouts, with private female colleges and others to recruit amazing women so we can delight our women customers,” Gilbert says. “Imagine opening your front door, and it’s a woman on the Geek Squad.” . . .
“We’re not going to paint the stores pink.”

Thank Heaven for small favors.

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12 Responses

To be honest, I don’t care if the store has less of a warehouse look or if there are more female employees as long as the merchandise and pricing stays the same. I think geek chicks are kinda hot, this change doesn’t bother me at all. I would complain if I walked into a Best Buy store and was greeted with mimosas, barbara streisand music on the intercom and comfy little chairs to lounge in, but I don’t think that’s the look they’re going for. I’m okay with women being promoted and isles being widened if I can still go in there and get a UFC dvd and the new Halo game for my xbox.

Stealthkix on December 21, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Debbie,
With more and more women making all the household decisions to me it makes sense to put more women sales people in their stores. Women are the last major untapped market for consumer electronics. So, in my opinion, it seems like it makes good business sense for Best Buy to do this. I think with proper training women can easily go from selling bras to selling boom boxes.

Chuck W on December 21, 2006 at 5:19 pm

“delight our women customers”…when a business uses the phrase “delight our customers,” it is usually a sign of communicable mental retardation taking place within the company (unless that company is in the circus business or something analogous.) Most customers of normal businesses would be happy to get halfway decent service and don’t really expect to be “delighted.”
I do think an intelligent salesperson with a background in different products–bras, whatever–can sell consumer electronics, but there needs to be a lot of hard training, not just soft & squisy stuff.
I was shopping for a Tivo at BB a couple of years ago, and the (male) salesperson was unable to answer very basic questions about how the Tivo box needed to work with the cable box. Stores need to either train people properly, or provide sales aids (informative displays) sufficient for customers to understand the product alternatives without human help.

photoncourier.blogspot.com on December 21, 2006 at 5:25 pm

Since I am BB I will offer a comment on BB.
This company is an amazing marketing machine. I don’t know how they have captured the minds of so many young people–but I watch my young guys wait to snatch the BB flyer each week and they save it and refer back to it. I had never really even shopped there myself, so it is not from me.
I ask where they are going–”to BB” they say. So whatever they are doing–I hesitate to second guess the merchandizing of BB.

BB on December 21, 2006 at 6:19 pm

“To be honest, I don’t care if the store has less of a warehouse look or if there are more female employees as long as the merchandise and pricing stays the same.”
And that’s Best Buy’s problem. More men than women are technophiles. They know exactly what is and isn’t a deal or what exactly they are getting vs. what they want. A lot of men walk into Best Buy almost as a formality since they pretty much have it worked out ahead of time.
By aiming at women, they hope to sway bad decisions on the part of customers that will make them more money. They are focusing on the person in the couple that is more likely to be less knowledgeable about their purchasing decision.

jpm100 on December 21, 2006 at 6:30 pm

I can’t believe this. It’s one of my favorite places to go to….and now it’s gonna be feminized. Sad.

Squirrel3D on December 21, 2006 at 7:53 pm

Women, in the marketplace, are considered a more reliable source of dough.
From the oldest profession (prostitution) to space walking, women are used for money and publicity.
Pimps and NASA profit from women.
Women are looking for equality, so they shouldn’t complain if they are being used by big corporations as an object of exploitation for profit.
On the other hand, the man who is capable of working but choses to stay home (“Mr. Mom”) to take care of the kids, shouldn’t complain either if he choses to be a girlie-man, controlled by women.
The world is upside down.
These days, it’s normal, it’s OK for men to be girlies, no questions asked, and it’s normal for women to pretend to be “men.”
Men gave up and lost their manhood in the Western world, that’s why we don’t have strong, tough leaders on the political scene.
Sooner or later, we are going to have women pimps who are prostituting men.

Independent Conservative on December 21, 2006 at 9:54 pm

When Circuit City, BB’s only serious competitor, moved the sales force to salary from comission, the extremely knowledgable sales help seemed to thin out, unless you count the geeky techno nerds that bring their knowlegdge to the job.
Jpm100 makes a good point.. targeting women for the sale of electronics is a lounge lizard moved on the unsuspecting.
Is it a stunning development to prissify sales floors to pander to women? Hell no. Sadly, i would probably do the same thing to jack up the cash register reciepts.
In fact, i know i would. Maybe Hooters outfits?

icanplainlysee on December 22, 2006 at 12:42 am

Jpm100 hit the nail on the head. I went into Best Buy a while back to get a wireless router. I said, “I need a wireless router that has a range of about 15 feet.” The salesman directed me toward an $80 item. I pointed to the one next to it, “This one is $25. What’s the difference?”
“Well, the range is shorter. You might run into problems if you travel out of range, and the first one has blah and blah other features that make it easier to set up and blah blah blah…”
“Can the cheap one go 15 feet and through some drywall as well as the expensive one?”
“Yes.”
And that was all I needed to know. I was in and out of the store in 5 minutes. Being able to research things on the internet ahead of time means I know exactly what I want before I go into the store. The only time I ever even go to Best Buy anymore is when I want to get something without waiting for shipping, since everything can be found cheaper online. I am not the sort of customer that Best Buy wants.
But a housewife who needs to get a new TV? Computer for a kid going off to college? “Well, gee, I don’t really know, but my kid wants such and such for Christmas.” *That’s* what Best Buy wants.

Dan on December 22, 2006 at 3:27 am

I dunno. Best Buy strikes me these days as rather pretentious. If you don’t look like you’re dripping with coin, they don’t bother to help you. I’ll stick with Circuit City. They’ve always gone out of their way to help.
ALSO – BB tends to really push only high dollar items.
~(ƒ)~

Rocketman on December 22, 2006 at 10:54 am

Another feminist bitch running a company.
She will run the company into the ground just like Carla Fiorini did with HP.Oh and don’t forget the disaster at Lucent before she left that company in a financial disaster.
Or how about another feminist bitch. Jill Barad that ran Mattel into the ground with her “pro women” remake of Barbie. After she was forced to resign, Mattel’s stock market value skyrocketed from $9 to $23. Mattels’ stock valuation increased $6 billion.
After reading what this woman is doing to Best Buy, I will no longer shop there. I will not support companies that see men as the enemy.

ScottyDog on December 22, 2006 at 3:40 pm

Wow!
Although I don’t shop Best Buy often, I’ve never had any problems getting someone to assist me if needed nor have I felt frightened or intimidated by their staff. What a strange concept?!
The following in particular left me thinking “What I do find frightening and a bit offensive, is this woman holding the title of vice-president of Best Buy..YIKES”
“Gilbert says. “Imagine opening your front door, and it’s a woman on the Geek Squad.” . . .”
This statement just boggles the mind. It could be taken a couple of ways, my initial thought was that it she almost appeared to be crediting Best Buy with some heretofor unheard of concept of women working tech, it could be taken as her saying that Geek Squad has discriminated against qualified females in the past and this is a new initiative (which would be incorrect), or much more frightening….but almost seems more likely, she is insinuating that they will be dumbing down their staff focusing less on qualifications and concentrating more on gender. That sure instills a heap of confidence!
I personally have never dealt with Geek Squad, but prior to Best Buy bringing them in when they had their own generic tech force they didn’t necessarily hire the sharpest tools in the shed (at least in my area), even things I consider basic no brainer work seemed beyond them. Although it was profitable for me, having been called out a number of times to fix mistakes they made, I felt bad for the poor level of service those people received. I can’t imagine people would prefer gender over qualifications when trusting someone to repair their computer.

PsychoKat on December 22, 2006 at 8:33 pm

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