While other retailers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by shutting their stores entirely, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) says it will take a different approach. The business is limiting total in-store customers to 10 to 15 individuals at once, encouraging people to use curbside pick-up, and has temporarily shortened store hours to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
One option for customers is to buy items in advance on the Best Buy app or website and arrange to pick up their order at the curb. Another option is to enter the store as one of the 10 to 15 permitted customers. Those customers will be escorted by an employee, according to a recent company press release, who will maintain the CDC-recommended 6-foot distance from customers. Employees will also ensure that "clusters" of 10 or more people don't gather at one spot.
Shorter store hours took effect March 18. The limited-person access policy begins on Monday, March 23, and will continue for a minimum of two weeks. During that time, operating the stores will require reduced personnel. All additional employees will be sent home by the company for the duration, receiving two weeks' pay. Employees who miss work during the limited access period won't be penalized.
Best Buy's decision to remain open on a limited basis might mitigate first-quarter sales losses, helping slow an additional slide of its stock, which started dropping even before the coronavirus made serious inroads in the U.S. The company posted a strong fourth-quarter 2019 earnings report, but jittery investors nevertheless began bidding its stock down in mid-February.