Best Buy to furlough 51,000 store employees nationwide amid COVID-19 pandemic

Best Buy announced Wednesday it will furlough approximately 51,000 employees in the U.S. as its stores remain closed nationwide aside from curbside pickup during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Richfield, Minnesota-based retailer said some corporate employees are also participating in voluntary reduced work weeks and resulting pay as well as voluntary furloughs. 

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry will forego 50 percent of her base salary and company executives reporting directly to her will take a 20 percent reduction in base salary through at least Sept. 1. Members of the Board of Directors will also forego 50 percent of their cash retainer fees through at least Sept. 1. 

Furloughed employees will retain their health benefits for a minimum of three months, Best Buy said.

The retailer is also suspending the 401(k) company matching program for the time being. 

Best Buy partnered with its founder, Dick Schulze to established a $10 million employee assistance fund available to all part and full-time employees who have been with the company longer than one year. The retailer contributed $5 million to the fund by repurposing the majority of its annual corporate giving budget and Schulze kicked in another $5 million. 

Best Buy said its year-over-year sales declined approximately 30 percent from March 21, when the retailer announced it was closing its stores nationwide and switching to a curbside service-only model, through April 11. 

However, Best Buy is seeing heightened demand for products that people need to work or learn from home as well as gaming products and products that allow people to freeze food. In the eight-day period that ended March 20, sales grew 25 percent as the retailer experienced a surge in demand for those products.