Best Buy stores close in Saanich and Langford

Andrew Duffy

Customers and staff heading to Victoria’s two Best Buy locations Thursday morning were met with closed doors and security guards, as Best Buy Canada closed seven Best Buy stores and eight Future Shops.

Brown paper covered glass doors at Best Buy locations at Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich and West Shore Town Centre in Langford. Security guards handed information pamphlets to customers and ushered employees into the store at the start of their shifts.

According to one of the guards, employees only found out about the closing as they arrived for work.

The pamphlets directed customers to Future Shop locations at Uptown and on McCallum Drive in Langford.

Calls to both Greater Victoria locations and the Best Buy in Nanaimo were re-routed to Future Shop and contact information for the closed stores was removed from Best Buy’s website by 10 a.m.

“I woke up to a text that I had lost my job,” said 18-year-old Shelby Ross, who had worked at Best Buy in Nanaimo since 2009.

Another Nanaimo employee, who asked not to be named, called the process unfair. “It was very cold — I went to get my stuff and they had to follow me around the store to make sure I wasn’t going to take anything,” said the five-year veteran of the retailer.

Best Buy stores in Canada are a division of Burnaby-based Best Buy Canada, a subsidiary of Best Buy Co. Inc., which also owns Future Shop. Along with Best Buy stores on the Island, the closings affect two locations each in the Lower Mainland and Quebec. Future Shop stores being closed include one in B.C., in West Kelowna; also closing are two in Quebec, one in Manitoba, one in Calgary and three in Ontario.

The company’s head office did not return calls Thursday. A news release called the closings part of a “transformational strategy.”

Best Buy said over the next 36 months, it plans to open smaller Future Shop stores and Best Buy Mobile locations. The company has been facing tough competition from discounters and online retailers, a victim of what’s known as “showrooming” — when people browse in stores, then buy products more cheaply online from competitors such as Amazon.

Best Buy announced last March that it was closing 50 stores in the U.S.

Geoff Archer, professor and director of the Eric C. Douglass Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Royal Roads University, wasn’t surprised by the Canadian closings. “A company who rents expensive real estate in enormous quantities on long-term contracts cannot really be flexible, and when margins move to smaller devices, as they are now, they will be dying to move to a smaller-format store.”

Archer said Best Buy may have been its own worst enemy, setting up shop in such close proximity to other retailers such as Future Shop and Walmart, as it did at Uptown.

Best Buy would not provide local numbers, but said 900 employees will be laid off because of the closings — about five per cent of Best Buy Canada’s workforce.

The company still operates 120 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile and 140 Future Shop stores across the country.