TORONTO - Future Shop stores across Canada are closing effective immediately, to the shock of customers and dismay of hundreds of employees losing full and part-time jobs.
Best Buy Canada, a subsidiary of Best Buy Co. Inc. that owns and operates both Best Buy and Future Shop stores, said in a statement Saturday that it will be closing 66 Future Shops for good, while 65 others will be converted into Best Buys.
The move will result in the loss of 500 full-time and 1,000 part-time jobs. The affected employees will receive severance, employee assistance and outplacement support, the company said.
Brandon Buchanan, a former Future Shop employee in Toronto who worked in the mobile audio section in 2012, said he was shocked to hear the stores are closing.
"That happened kind of suddenly, because a lot of the people I still know work here, apparently they showed up this morning and it was just locked out," he said.
The company said there will now be a total of 192 Best Buys in Canada, including 56 Best Buy Mobile stores, and the converted stores will reopen after a one-week closure.
Stores in Toronto were locked and covered with signs telling customers to shop at nearby Best Buy stores. Posters at a downtown Vancouver location said it was hiring and would reopen April 4.
For Ben McLeod, who took a city bus to buy a TV from a downtown Edmonton Future Shop, the news the store wouldn't reopen until next week was particularly frustrating.
"I spent 10 bucks on a bus pass for no reason and end up coming here and finding the store's actually closed," said McLeod. "It's stupid they would do that and not tell anyone in advance."
The decision to close the Future Shop stores was made after the company said it reviewed its "real estate footprint," adding a significant number of Future Shop and Best Buy stores are located next to each other, often in the same parking lot. Best Buy bought Future Shop in 2001.
"I don't like the fact that every store that we have in Canada it always ends up going south and it's not good for the economy, for us," said Michelle Derue, who tried to buy headphones at a downtown Toronto store on Saturday.
"The poor workers that are in these places that actually do get sold out to American companies — it's not a good thing for them, they've got families."
Best Buy Canada President and COO Ron Wilson said the stores will continue to have a "strong store presence" across Canada, adding the move will not change the fact that 80 per cent of customers are within a 15-minute drive to a store.
"Any decisions that impact our people are never taken lightly; our first priority is to support them through this change," Wilson said in the statement.
The company also said that all Future Shop gift cards will be accepted at any Best Buy Canada location and online, while product orders, service appointments and warranties will continue to be honoured and Future Shop purchases to be returned or exchanged will also be accepted at any Best Buy.
"It doesn't surprise me actually because I know the same company owns both stores so at some point I expected them to merge into one," said Guy McLoughlin, a frequent Future Shop customer.
"I would always go to both stores anyways to comparison shop because occasionally one would be cheaper than the other. I guess I lose that option now but otherwise I'm just thankful we've got something like that still in Canada."
Best Buy has been facing tough competition from discounters and online retailers, a victim of what’s known as "showrooming" — when people browse in stores and then buy the products more cheaply online from competitors such as Amazon.
Maureen Atkinson, a retail analyst with J.C. Williams Group, said the bigger impact will be on workers, many of whom will find themselves on the job market alongside former Target employees after the company closed its Canadian stores in January, affecting more than 17,000 employees.
"For the Canadian consumer there's probably very little impact. There still is a lot of competition in the marketplace and people are buying these things at everything from Wal-Mart to high end speciality stores," she said.
"I think it's not great if you work in retail. There's a lot of retail people out on the street given the Target closures too. So I think it's going to be a challenge employment-wise."
With files from Laura Kane in Vancouver and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton