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Mike and Peggy McArdle look at a Sony Bloggie Touch. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn will be in town Thursday at an IPFW speaking event.

Undeterred CEO glad he’s in electronics biz

Photos by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Best Buy employee Evan Smith helps customer Kathy Lauritsen with her Kindle Fire.

– Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn will arrive in Fort Wayne at a precarious time.

The boss of the country’s largest electronics retailer said he is optimistic, despite a plan to close 50 stores nationwide, cut $800 million in costs and eliminate 400 corporate jobs. Dunn said even with the challenges ahead, “it’s a great time to be in this business.”

“We are in a business of constant innovation,” he said in an email Tuesday to The Journal Gazette. “Customers are interested and excited about how technology can unleash their creativity, productivity, and bring the entertainment they love to their lives. I am especially excited about the innovations in smartphones and tablets.”

Dunn is the keynote speaker during a Doermer Dialogue event Thursday on the IPFW campus. He is expected to address the theme “Connecting with Your Customers: Customer Centricity.” A panel discussion will follow. Registration for the $50 event and continental breakfast ended Tuesday.

Many analysts have said the electronics industry put too much stock in 3-D televisions, which didn’t catch fire as many had hoped. Dunn, who responded to a few questions by email, said the business is not dead, though.

“3D will continue to exist as a feature, and there is consumer interest in having it as a feature to take advantage of periodically,” he said. “Content needs to catch up.”

Even as Best Buy looks to get smaller and adjust to market forces, Dunn said he is undeterred and doesn’t expect to go the way of Circuit City or others who have failed.

“Last Thursday, we announced a series of actions intended to improve our operating performance,” he said.

Real estate manager Phil Knapke said the Minneapolis company is making painful but shrewd moves.

“They’re doing what they have to do,” said Knapke, a broker with BND Commercial who manages Northcrest Shopping Center. Northcrest has a 45,000-square-foot Best Buy store – the largest in Fort Wayne.

“The industry has changed so much in recent years, so they have to do something. Like anything else, you can’t have underperforming stores because of their size.”

The retailer, which has nearly 1,100 U.S. stores, also has a store at Apple Glen Crossing.

Knapke said there were discussions with Best Buy in recent months about downsizing the Northcrest location, but the company decided against it and inked a multiyear lease.

“It’s a great location,” he said of the shopping center off Coliseum Boulevard east of Coldwater Road. “It would be foolish to close it.”

Lyman Lewis, MBA program administrator in the Doermer School of Business, believes in Dunn’s plan.

“They’ve been resizing their stores all along,” he said. “Things have changed since the middle 1980s when everybody thought bigger was better. Best Buy is making sure their strategies keep up with the current market environment.”