Best Buy cut 5,000 jobs even as sales soared during pandemic

A Best Buy store sign is displayed in Arlington Heights, Ill., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Best Buys is closing five stores in four states in the next month. The retailer plans to close two Richmond, Va., area stores, along with one store each in Syracuse, N.Y., Carbondale, Ill., and Brockton, Mass. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A Best Buy store sign is displayed in Arlington Heights, Ill., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Best Buys is closing five stores in four states in the next month. The retailer plans to close two Richmond, Va., area stores, along with one store each in Syracuse, N.Y., Carbondale, Ill., and Brockton, Mass. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Best Buy said Thursday that it laid off 5,000 full-time store workers earlier this month, even as the company’s sales soared during the pandemic as homebound people bought laptops, TVs and other gadgets.

The company said it cut the jobs because more shoppers are choosing to buy online instead of coming inside its stores. Best Buy said it will replace the 5,000 full-time employees with 2,000 part-time workers.

Best Buy's workforce has shrunk in the last year after having to furlough workers when it closed stores during the pandemic. It currently has more than 100,000 workers, down by 21,000, or 17%, from the year before.

The company is retraining workers to help with online orders. And more space in stores is being used to ship orders or to get them ready for curbside pickup, where shoppers buy online and fetch their orders in the parking lot.

A group of workers has posted an online petition calling for Best Buy to compensate employees for lost wages related to cuts. The petition said the company had begun drastically reducing the hours of employees at 150 stores on Jan. 10. About 792 of the nearly 4,000 signatures were from Best Buy workers, said Shannon Fulfs, the petition organizer who works at a Best Buy in the Omaha, Nebraska area.

Fulfs said workers struggled with the sudden loss of income of up to 40% and uncertainty about what to do because they were not told whether the reductions would be permanent. On Thursday, she learned she had been laid off.

“It's just overall been pretty stressful and I don't think they have been making it easier with the lack of information,” Fulfs said.

Best Buy said it was “not realistic to pay employees for hours they didn't work, which is what a small number are asking for in this petition.”