End Of An Era

I’ve been noticing that every time I go to Fry’s the shelves are emptier and emptier, and fewer and fewer staff. I went looking for a graphics card today, and they had a grand selection of zero. They are clearly not restocking inventory. I doubt they’ll make it to the end of the year. Discussion here. I had to go to Best Buy (which was fortunately just down the street).

This is frustrating, because they were one of the last places you could buy computer and electronics components off the shelf. But they couldn’t compete with next-day, or even in some cases same-day delivery from Amazon.

26 thoughts on “End Of An Era”

    1. Not according to their website, but I’m fairly sure when I was first purchasing computer equipment (decades ago), Newegg had stores. They were smaller than a Micro Center and just as numerous, which is to say rare.

        1. Indeed, but I thought Newegg was just the rebranding of Egghead when they went online? As in “new egg head”.

          1. If my [aging] memory serves, Egghead went through a bankruptcy, closed all their physical locations, and then reorganized as online only retailer Newegg.

  1. I was in a Fry’s in Phoenix a few weeks ago, and saw what Rand did; plenty of empty shelves.

    I used to buy hardware there, even though it’s over a hundred miles from where I live (It was the closest hardware store). This time, though, I basically decided I would not be back; they seem to have moved away from components to full systems, and worse, every system they had (I asked) came with Windows 10. They did not even have any power supplies, at all. They also no longer seem to carry electronic components such as transistors and diodes.

    Even their monitor selection was awful. This bothered me the most, because monitors are one thing I like to see running before I choose, so I can’t just buy one online.

    I’ll miss Frys. I used to buy a lot of appliances there too.

  2. Yeah, I’ve been noticing the same thing here in Dallas.

    Oddly enough, Micro Center is NOT having the same problem, and is usually packed on weekends, whereas Fry’s has fewer and fewer people.

  3. I was surprised when we actually got a second computer parts store here a few months ago. But pre-tax prices there are little different to online, so you get stuff straight away at the cost of paying local sales tax.

    1. If you’re lucky enough to have a Micro Center nearby and are looking for certain things, they have some really good deals. Typically they will have several high-end Intel CPUs at a significant discount, and if you buy a motherboard at the same time they’ll apply another discount of up to $50.

  4. Fry’s came up in the discussions around the Ars story about GameStop’s slow lurch into oblivion, with a few people voicing the same complaint and user Rainywolf saying:

    Their[sic] all dying, employees at some stores have said they haven’t received any new stock in months. Strong rumor is they are going to do one last xmas and then declare bankruptcy.

    1. This could be why some are honestly thinking that recession is coming. I think Rand is right about the end of the era. It isn’t that producers are selling less. It is the middle market distributors are being crowded out.

      I think that trend will continue even into the digital domain. Clay Travis has been saying this about ESPN for some time. If the NFL, MLB, or NBA decided to sell their product direct to customers; ESPN would be gone as a unnecessary middle man. Bringing it back to computers, you can buy nVidia graphics cards cheaper from nVidia (when they have them in stock) than anywhere else.

      1. I just read an item on Instapundit about Walmart creating something like Amazon Prime for grocery delivery. This reminds me about another discussion of failed brick and mortar and my own developing thoughts on the return of an era.

        Besides Frys, other department stores are dying. Most notably Sears, which hasn’t had a profitable quarter I think since Bush was President (and if I’m wrong, then they should thank Trump). Of course, people point to Amazon and others like Overstock for the demise of Sears. But mail-order delivery is how Sears became such a large brand name. They did it a century before the Internet was invented by Al Gore. What is remarkable is that they couldn’t pivot back to that form of business. And it is interesting that consumers are returning to something akin to mail-order delivery. Even to the level of having groceries delivered from an internet order.

        Heck, I’m old enough to remember having the Sears, Macy’s, Dillard’s mail order catalogs as a kid to find the items I wanted for Christmas.

        1. I don’t think Bezos is exactly quaking in his boots anent WalMart’s alleged equivalent of Prime Now. The WalMart website is clunky and off-putting and neither delivery nor even order-and-pick-up seems to be on offer via any of the four Wal-Marts closest to me. We have no problem using Prime Now.

          WalMart, I’m afraid, has fallen a very long way from the days when Mr. Sam was still running the show. It used to have the best IT and backoffice tech in retailing. Now, it seems to be just another store with the rather crummy inventory (mis)management that seems to be normative for CA supermarket/retail chains.

          The hirelings running things these days seem much more concerned with trendy hipster stuff like fair-trade coffee and having a film festival in Bentonville than in the fundamentals of good store management. They seem to be operating on the basis of trying to get the hipster Left – with whom they seem to increasingly identify – to like them. That is never going to happen.

          There’s a reason why on less than half the annual sales, Amazon has a market cap almost three times that of WalMart.

  5. I’ll sure miss Fry’s. I don’t buy computer stuff that often, but when I do, I really prefer to be able to actually see my options in front of me. Sometimes the images for online sales create an impression that the actual object simply can’t live up to.

  6. Fry’s in its heyday was a wonderland. I would wander through just to see the vast collection of obscure and specialized components, tools, and devices on its myriad shelves.

    What we’ve lost with Fry’s decline is the same thing we’ve lost with the vanishing of technical bookstores: the ability to go in and run across something we didn’t even know existed. Amazon, as much as I love and use it, doesn’t offer that same browsing capability.

  7. Big box retailing was a pretty difficult business to be in well before Amazon decided to move from selling books to selling everything. Of course it doesn’t help if the management cadre are all dumber than Forrest Gump. Those who can’t do, manage. Those who can’t manage, manage retail.

    That said, Fry’s did pretty well to last this long. CompUSA has been gone a long time and Computer City even longer.

    The latter chain I worked part-time at for awhile after knocking off from my then crack-of-dawn day job. One of their big problems was they were trying to run 100,000 sq. ft. stores using essentially the same policy manual the parent company (Tandy Corp.) used to run their hole-in-the-wall Radio Shack outlets. Tandy’s foray into big box appliance and consumer electronics retailing, Incredible Universe, had much the same problem and went toes up about the same time as Computer City.

    The store I worked at was near Beverly Hills so I used to see show-biz celebrities in there a lot. I waited on three then or future Oscar winners and a whole bunch of then or future Emmy winners in the year or so I had the job.

      1. Creative destruction – gotta love it.

        When I first moved out here to CA in 1974 I used to run across an occasional giant derelict White Front store when I was just driving around getting the lay of the land. Apparently White Front was a big deal in the 50’s that fell on hard times and went bust just before I showed up. All their old stores have long since been either repurposed or razed and replaced by something else. Mostly the latter, I suspect. They all seemed to be gone within a couple years.

  8. I see an on-line business opportunity offering services as a computer configuration sales company. Tell us what you want to do with your computer and we will configure the system for you and purchase and assemble it on our site and then drop ship to you fully assembled.

    Everything could be purchased on Amazon and the receipts passed along to the you the buyer as well.

    For those who want brand name components but don’t want to do the build it themselves for the reasons you discovered.

    Also can warn if you want to upgrade components of your system but are unaware of the other “gotchas”, like PS’s, monitor incompatibilities, cabinet cooling, noise, etc.

    Regrettably not an interesting opportunity for me. I’m not a people person.

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