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The Best Buy for a New Generation

Uncategorized | Feb 18, 2022 |

The six Gabelli School sophomores sensed that Best Buy had traction with some generations of consumers. The tech chain’s size testified to that. Their research also revealed that Best Buy had begun to invest in special programs for certain age groups, including school-aged children and older Americans.

The students saw a gap, though, with one group of buyers: their own Generation Z. A large Best Buy sat one-tenth of a mile from the Rose Hill campus gates, but no one they knew at Fordham had ever been inside the store.

How to solve this problem? That was the team’s charge as participants in the Consulting Cup, an annual competition that asks groups of sophomores to identify a challenge faced by a major company and come up with a creative fix. Fortunately, Michael Parrinello, Jacqueline Risch, Claire Brunner, Luka Masic, Matthew Quijano, and Julia Quinn had an idea.

Best Buy could attract Gen Z buyers by infusing social impact into its brand identity. The company already had the seed of a platform to do it, too: a network of Teen Tech Centers where students from under-resourced communities can not only access technology, but also learn career-advancing skills in using it.

It struck the Gabelli School team that the Teen Tech Center network was surprisingly small: only 41 existed nationwide, versus 990 traditional retail stores. Teen Tech Centers could have a positive impact on society, but they needed to be scaled up and integrated far more closely with the day-to-day shopping experience of Best Buy consumers.

“Right now, the retail offering and the social-impact offering are separate,” Parrinello said. “If you shop the customer offering, you’re not experiencing the Teen Tech Center side.”

For their Consulting Cup project, the group proposed a significant expansion of Teen Tech Centers in Best Buy retail locations on or near college campuses. All Generation Z consumers would see firsthand the positive social programming run by the company, and some would have the chance to get involved via service-based internships on a “Social Squad.”

This winter, the team’s proposal captured the attention of a crucial group of people: Best Buy’s own social impact staff. Group members had reached out to Best Buy with a summary of their proposal and an invitation to connect, and the company was intrigued. The team members and Best Buy executives have discussions underway, a development that is especially rewarding for these students.

“Our generation is a lot more mindful about where they decide to put their money,” Risch said. “From a personal standpoint, I am willing to go the extra mile for a company that is trying to put underprivileged community first or help women first, or that has a reputation for social impact.”

“I’m more willing to go to Best Buy if they are really putting their energy into these Teen Tech Center programs,” she added.

Parrinello felt a strong connection between this project and his Jesuit business education. “Fordham really stresses the connection between the society that enables the business to exist and the operation of that business,” he said.

The team members expressed thanks to the Gabelli School faculty mentors whom they consider key to their success, Anthony DeFrancesco and Clarence Ball III, and they are excited to learn where their conversations with Best Buy might go from here.

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