Best Buy to Reduce Temporary Holiday Hires by Half

The company also will reportedly loosen return policies, increase advertising to smartphone users, and expand its Geek Squad technical support to nab sales from Amazon.com during the upcoming holiday season.

Best Buy Company said Tuesday that it plans to hire about 15,000 seasonal workers during this year's holiday season-slightly more than half as many as it brought in last year.

“This year, we are focused on making sure that our most experienced, knowledgeable employees are there for our customers while also responding to our employees' requests for additional hours for more income,” the Richfield-based electronics retailer said in a statement posted on its Web site.

In 2010, Best Buy hired about 29,000 seasonal employees during the holiday season-the same number as the prior year.

Best Buy also will loosen return policies, increase advertising to smartphone users, and expand its Geek Squad technical support to nab sales from Amazon.com during the upcoming holiday season, according to the Pioneer Press.

Retailers have received mixed messages about how strong this year's holiday sales will be. According to the Star Tribune, some analysts are predicting them to be flat compared with last year-but the International Council of Shopping Centers is predicting chain-store sales to jump 3.5 percent.

John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., in Chicago, told the Minneapolis newspaper that “retailers are being cautious right now” and want to keep their options open. Given the millions still out of work, retailers are able to have a “double work force” consisting of employees they know they'll need and standby workers that are called as needed, he said.

Best Buy's same-store sales-sales at stores open for at least a year and a key indication of a retailer's performance-have been dropping in recent quarters.

Michael Vitelli, Best Buy executive vice president and vice president of the Americas, told analysts during a recent conference call that the company is placing its work force in growth areas-like mobile devices, games, and online sales.

In addition to the 15,000 temporary employees Best Buy plans to hire, the company said that it will add more than 3,000 additional employees for its phone support and distribution centers.