UPDATE 2-Best Buy to hire more holiday staff this year
* CEO says to hire more holiday staff than last year
* Says gained more market share from Circuit City demise
* CEO "very confident" of meeting FY 2010 financial goals (Adds CEO comment)
By Franklin Paul
NEW YORK, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Electronics retailer Best Buy Co (BBY.N) expects to hire more staff for the U.S. holidays than it did last year to boost sales in the critical shopping season, Chief Executive Brian Dunn said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a briefing in New York, Dunn said he was beefing up staff in anticipation of "a better year-over-year performance" as consumers snap up flat-screen televisions, blu-ray players, digital book readers, smartphones and thin and light computers -- often called netbooks -- as gifts.
"We are hiring more people for seasonal sales this year than last year," said Dunn, who took over as CEO in June. "We see (competitive) price, plus services, as a major upside for us."
In 2008, the company had scaled back its holiday hiring to cut costs in what was one of the worst holiday shopping seasons in decades. Analysts have predicted that 2009 holiday sales across retail categories will likely be flat to down from a year ago.
Best Buy is betting that this year, services such as its "Geek Squad" repair assistance will help the top electronics retailer differentiate from rivals, Dunn said, in what is shaping up to be another chilly holiday season for U.S. retailers.
Best Buy, the top U.S. electronics chain, has gained market share since rival Circuit City closed its doors early this year, but still faces competition from retail giants such as Wal-Mart (WMT.N) and Target (TGT.N).
"Circuit City's demise has put customers in play and ... we have gained more share than anybody since Circuit City's departure," Dunn said.
Dunn, who noted that Best Buy has bought about 20 of Circuit City retail locations, said the company expects its overall market share improvement, fueled in part by strength in appliance sales, to continue through the rest of the year.
NOT PULLING ALL THE PRICE LEVERS
Dunn also rejected the idea that the company was using heavy discounts to fuel market share gains, a point that has drawn investor concern over Best Buy's margins.
Instead, he said, Best Buy is winning by being competitive on price and highlighting service, a key aspect in its television advertising and with viral online marketing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Dunn also doesn't expect to slash prices even if the holiday season gets off to a rough start.
"I don't have a number and a date circled on the calendar when I'm going to pull all of the price levers and say 'lets go crazy'", he said. "I don't think it's that kind of holiday season."
He added that the company is "very confident" that it can meet its fiscal 2010 profit forecasts, which were announced earlier this month. Best Buy expects to earn $2.70 to $3.00 a share, excluding items, with same-store sales flat to down 2 percent and total revenue of $48 billion to $49 billion.
Best Buy shares slipped 1 percent on Wednesday to $37.49. (Reporting by Franklin Paul; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Bernard Orr)
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