Longtime Best Buy executive Shari Ballard is leaving the retailer after 25 years, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "The Star Tribune story is accurate and we have no comment beyond that," a Best Buy spokesperson confirmed to Retail Dive in an email.
Last year, Ballard, who has led the retailer's U.S. retail operations, added e-commerce to her list of responsibilities as sales channel divisions broke down, according to a previous report. The title expansion meant that 90% of Best Buy's $39.4 billion in revenue was under her purview, according to Fortune magazine, which consistently profiled her as part of its annual "Most Powerful Women" list.
In a note to employees on Wednesday obtained by the Star Tribune, Ballard said she's "leaving because it's time for me to explore the post-Best Buy version of me and to grow and learn in new ways."
As a top executive, Ballard helped steer Best Buy through a turnaround that kept the retailer above the fray in electronics and allowed it to compete head to head with Amazon and vanquish rivals.
News of her departure hit just as Amazon in its second quarter report boasted that it and Best Buy have released the first of Amazon's next-generation Fire TV Edition smart TVs to customers in the U.S., a solidification of an ongoing relationship that some analysts say actually favors Best Buy.
Even so, there's evidence that Amazon is swiftly capturing share in the market. The e-retail giant last year grew its consumer electronics sales by more than 18.5%, or more than $5.3 billion, while Best Buy grew those sales 8.5%, according to Dealerscope's Top 101 Consumer Electronics Retailers list.
A few years ago, things seemed dire for a retailer that long ago mastered selling electronics in a big box venue. As the market shuddered with the explosive growth of Amazon, Best Buy managed to pivot quickly from a defensive turnaround to an offensive one. At their investors day conference in September, Best Buy executives — including CEO Hubert Joly — outlined their new growth strategy, which includes "expanding what the company sells and evolving how it sells."
Circuit City, RadioShack and a host of smaller players in recent years fell to mass merchants, lower-cost warehouse stores, Amazon and other e-commerce players. Yet Best Buy abides.
"They know how to leverage their scale — and because they know about electronics, they know the ups and downs, and it gives them a strategic advantage," Stephen Baker, vice president and technology analyst at global information company the NPD Group, told Retail Dive in an interview last year. "That's what they sell, the technology, and I always thought that gave them a big advantage."