Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Larry Downes and the Hoo Ha over Best Buy

One of the hottest stories in the business press right now is the fate of my former employer, Best Buy. Recently, a noted columnist wrote about how Best Buy is going out of business gradually, which sparked an immense outcry from people both agreeing and disagreeing with the proposition. In all, the story generated over 3 million page views at and numerous op ed pieces appearing in Forbes and other publications. Responses to the article even included one from the Best Buy CEO himself. Now, I’m not here to pile on one way or the other. These topics have been debated for years both inside and outside the four walls of Best Buy and in my view, we won’t really know what happens until it happens (thank you, Yogi Bera). And yet, we continue to debate.

What I find most fascinating about the story is that it has generated this much response at all. It is a rather mundane story of a struggling retailer during tough economic times. Why then should we continue to debate the merits of Larry Downes’ article? Is it true or is it not? I really don’t think that matters. My best guess is that it’s because we care. At least I do. Best Buy used to be a cool brand. It was the place we all went to get the cool stuff, maybe where we got our first CD, or if you’re old like me, your first LP. It’s the place we used to go and ogle the cool new TVs and drool over the latest PCs or video games. So it’s a brand that holds a place for us, even if we never quite loved the service. It’s a brand that we’d like to see succeed, and yet it seems like now it won’t (maybe). And if you’re younger, it’s a brand that you always wanted to be as good as an Amazon, but maybe never quite was. So whatever the reason, there is a passion out there about Best Buy. It just might not be enough to help it carry on.

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