I’m on the road, in Guangdong, but I got a text last night to tell me about the demise of Best Buy.
As of today, the American consumer electronics store has closed its nine China outlets, pulling out of the world’s most talked-about consumer market.
Adam Minter has recorded his recollections about Best Buy here.
But I had a tale I wanted to share too. A couple of years ago, I had dinner with Ling Guosheng, the head of the Shanghai operations of Suning – Best Buy’s biggest Chinese rival.
I asked him about Best Buy, and whether he was worried about the competition.
“Best Buy?” he said. “Best Buy is just too Western! They do not stock enough Chinese brands and Chinese people do not want to buy foreign brands.” (Hmm, debatable, but let’s let that pass)
More damningly, he added: “Best Buy went and hired a lot of Shanghai staff, but went and Westernized them. They only work eight hours a day!”
By contrast, he said, managers at Suning and Gome work 20 hours or more a day. Mr Ling said: “When I was promoted to be put in charge of Shanghai, I swore that if I could not conquer the market and put Suning stores all over the city, I would jump off the bridge into the Huangpu river. In the past ten years, I have not taken a single day off.”
Is it any wonder Best Buy couldn’t compete?