UPDATED: Best Buy bows out of Nanaimo

Security guards were escorting employees into Best Buy
Security guards were escorting employees into Best Buy's Nanaimo location Thursday morning to inform them of the store's closure. The company's three locations on Vancouver Island were shut down Thursday.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Best Buy has bowed out the electronics retail market on Vancouver Island.

Employees and customers arrived at the Nanaimo North Town Centre store Thursday morning where they were greeted by security guards and window posters informing them the store was closed.

A company press release said the closures were part of a "...real estate optimization plan in first of transformational strategy."

The company announced it is permanently closing seven Best Buy outlets and eight Future Shop stores in selected markets across Canada.

Best Buy's Victoria and Langford stores are among those closures.

Rachel Elliott and her daughter, Kate, were among customers met by security guards at the store. She had driven from Port Alberni to exchange a camera she purchased Tuesday.

"It's crazy – I just bought this camera two days ago," she said. "I pulled my daughter out of school today day to come down here."

Security guards gave her a yellow hand-out sheet bearing notification of the store's closure with instructions to carry on Best Buy transactions at Future Shop outlets. The Future Shop chain was purchased by Best Buy in 2001.

Employees were given no warning about the store's impending closure.

Dax Brown was a member of Best Buy's Geek Squad, the company's division of technicians who work outside of the store performing in-home computer and home entertainment system setup and service.

Brown was with the store since it opened in 2008. When he called Wednesday to line up service clients for the following work day, there was no indication anything was amiss, but when he went online Thursday morning to check his schedule he discovered it had been deleted.

"Then I talked to my supervisor and he said I should go over to the store to find out what was going on," Brown said. "When I got to the store I found out exactly what went on."

Brown, 34, owns a home and has a three-year-old daughter and a new baby boy. He has also just recently returned to work after battling effects of surgery for a brain tumor and bowel surgery for which he was hospitalized 56 days over the past year.

"Thank God for benefits and the support from Best Buy," Brown said. "They were able to get me covered and when I was ready to come back they said, yes, come back. You just do what you have to do."

Brown said he loved his work and the company, which he said provided a benefits package that helped him through his treatments and had management staff who were understanding and supported his return to work.

"I absolutely loved what I did and I loved the company," he said. "I thought Best Buy was fantastic and I really thank the managers here in Nanaimo for letting me do what did and bringing smiles to people. It was all positive. It was all good and I loved what I did."

Brown wishes his fellow employees his best, but because he had to turn in his company cellphone, disruption of his social network will accompany the loss of his job.

"It was a corporate phone and I had all my contacts and everything on there and that's been taken from me," Brown said. "It was a way that I was keeping touch with clients, friends and way for me to help with our business."

Brown can apply to work for Future Shop, but it is too early for him to determine what his next move might be.

Best Buy said hiring preference will be given to employees affected by store closures and they will receive severance support, access to employee assistance programs and career transition support.

The company said over the coming three years it will move into the second phase of its "Renew Blue" strategy and plans to open new Best Buy mobile locations and Future Shop small-concept web stores across Canada. The changes are part of an effort to cut unnecessary costs, eliminate redundant operating systems and optimize its real estate strategy in a changing retail landscape.

Best Buy has not commented on the number of jobs lost at the Nanaimo store.

Brown said he has nothing negative to say about Best Buy, but said the way employees were notified is disconcerting.

"It's tough with the way that it was done – just the fact that you show up one morning and the door's shut," he said. "I think they could have done this a lot differently in a much better way, if that's the way they want to do things, I don't agree with that."

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