* Ending practice of “showrooming” is top priority -interim CEO
* Looking at opportunities to reduce retail square footage
* To give details on turnaround strategy later this summer
* Results of proposals made at meeting to be made public later
By Dhanya Skariachan
June 21 (Reuters) - Best Buy Co Inc’s acting CEO promised to tackle the unwieldy size of the world’s largest consumer electronics chain, just months after investors gave a thumbs-down to its restructuring efforts so far.
He also said the company will seek to end the practice of so-called showrooming which has caused Best Buy to lose sales to online retailers.
Interim CEO Mike Mikan and other executives said the company was working to improve its online business and looking for opportunities to reduce retail square footage further than the previously announced plan to close 50 of its 1,100 large U.S. stores. Those closings, announced in March, were deemed inadequate by many investors looking for even deeper cuts to turn around the chain.
The company’s share price has fallen by about 24 percent since the end of March. The shares were down 4.7 percent at $19.36 on Thursday afternoon.
“We are committed to changing in fundamental ways,” Mikan told shareholders at the retailer’s annual meeting. He added that he is working on a plan to make Best Buy “more relevant, more intelligent, more nimble.”
Mikan, who became interim chief executive after the abrupt departure of CEO Brian Dunn in April, offered few specifics, however. He reiterated that Best Buy will outline its turnaround plan later this summer.
Dunn exited during an internal probe that eventually found he had engaged in an improper relationship with a female employee, leaving the company without a permanent CEO as it starts planning for the all-important holiday season.
Critics have complained that under Dunn’s tenure, which lasted less than three years, Best Buy became a showroom for Amazon.com and other online chains, with shoppers going to Best Buy stores to check out electronics like high-definition televisions, and then buying them elsewhere for less.
Ending the practice of showrooming was a top priority, Mikan said at the meeting, held at Best Buy’s headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.
“Their (customer) needs have changed. We, unfortunately, have not,” he said.
On Thursday, the retailer also promised to give more training to its employees to improve customer service to compete better with the likes of Amazon.com.
The company, a bellwether for the consumer electronics industry, has now posted declines in same-store sales in seven of the last eight quarters.
Best Buy also plans more partnerships like a recent one with AARP in which Best Buy’s Geek Squad helps seniors with installing and repairing computers and other consumer electronics items.
Earlier on Thursday, Best Buy also approved an increase in its quarterly cash dividend by 6 percent to 17 cents a share, consistent with the rise in each of the prior three years.
Best Buy’s problems have been exacerbated by the recent departures of its chief marketing officer and the finance chiefs of both domestic and international businesses.
Adding to management distractions, founder and chairman Richard Schulze, who failed to tell the board about the allegations involving Dunn, resigned from the board earlier than expected and said he was exploring options for his 20.1 percent ownership stake.
Schulze was supposed to resign as chairman on Thursday and leave the board only in 2013, but he resigned in early June.