Slower CE spending trends reflected in Best Buy hiring plans

MINNEAPOLIS — While other retailers are beefing up their sales staff ahead of the holiday season, Best Buy Co. said Tuesday that it has cut its 2011 seasonal hiring plans to about half of last year’s staff numbers, in a move to curtail costs. This year’s plans call for 15,000 holiday workers, compared with 29,000 hired last year.

The retailer said it plans to increase its regular staffers’ hours to compensate for the fewer seasonal workers, and also plans to increase services such as free tech support and a longer window for product returns during the holidays. It will also promote under-$100 deals to promote more sales.

"The consumer continues to be cautious," said CEO Brian Dunn. "That's not just a blip, that's the new normal."

Best Buy's planned reduction in holiday hiring follows a second quarter where slower sales in key departments and a slowdown in consumer spending lead to a decrease in earnings and comparable-store sales.  Best Buy  has reported net earnings of $177 million, or 47 cents per diluted share, for its fiscal second quarter ended Aug. 27, compared with $254 million, or 60 cents per diluted share, for the prior-year period.