Tech megastore chain Fry’s Electronics is closing down for good.
The eclectic brick and mortar retailer, which was able to remain a going concern for years after the demise of competitors like Circuit City and CompUSA, has itself reached the end of the line after thirty-six years in business.
“Fry’s has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the firm said in a statement, which can be seen at frys.com. (Fry’s online store has been taken down; the excerpted statement is now the extent of the company’s online presence.)
“The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders. The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24th, 2021.”
“It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the Company’s assets for its creditors and other stakeholders.”
Most of Fry’s thirty-four stores were located in California or Texas, but it also had stores in Renton, Washington, Wilsonville, Oregon, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downers Grove, Illinois, Fishers, Indiana, Phoenix and Tempe in Arizona, and Duluth and Milton in Georgia. Unusually for a large chain, Fry’s stores were themed.
In its heyday, Fry’s Electronics stores were the place for technophiles on the West Coast to find pretty much anything needed to build a computer or create a home networking setup. Fry’s stocked tens of thousands of items. It sold televisions, household appliances, movies, music on compact disc and vinyl, and an array of gadgets and peripherals in addition to computer parts.
One of my favorite ever Fry’s purchases was a Metro-Vac electric duster, which I still have and use to keep my computers in top working order.
Metro-Vac’s dusters are more environmentally friendly than cans of throwaway air, and they’re made right here in the United States. Metro-Vac has a product repair department, so if your duster happens to need a new power cord at some point, as mine did, you can ship it in for a new part rather than send it to a landfill.
I’m not sure I would have known about Metro-Vac’s products if I hadn’t seen them for sale on a shelf at Fry’s. Fry’s was really useful for product discovery.
Another memorable purchase was the Belkin Bluetooth USB adapter I got at Fry’s in the early 2000s. Bluetooth modules were not as ubiquitous in laptops then as they are today, and I was trying to add Bluetooth connectivity to a Dell laptop that didn’t have Bluetooth built-in. I ultimately found an adapter that worked well at Fry’s, made by Belkin. My first stop had been Best Buy, but their selection was unsatisfying and I was unable to get the adapter made by their house brand to work. I still have that Belkin Bluetooth adapter, too.
NPI’s first digital projector, a bright ViewSonic unit with DLP technology, was also a Fry’s purchase. Our team still has that projector — it too remains in good working order, in part thanks to the Metro-Vac electric duster.
Though the excerpted statement above blames the pandemic for Fry’s business difficulties, the chain was in awful shape before the term COVID-19 had even entered the lexicon. Back in 2019, videos began circulating of empty shelves at Fry’s locations in different places, from Phoenix to Renton to San Jose.
Unlike Best Buy, Fry’s never really made a serious push into ecommerce. Its online store was clunky and dated. Its product selection, once one of its competitive advantages, failed to rival that of Amazon’s, or Newegg’s, or camera megastores like B&H Photo and Adorama that did invest in creating a serious online presence.
Fry’s also neglected to create a compelling in-store experience to compensate, as evidenced by the firm’s failure to upgrade its point of sale terminals.
Having failed to pivot to ecommerce properly after the U.S. economy began coming out of the Great Recession, Fry’s began a downward spiral it couldn’t recover from, which culminated in this week’s exit from the marketplace.
In addition to not having a strategy for adapting to the prevalence of online shopping, the company also lacked sound internal controls to protect itself.
One executive (Fry’s Ferrari-driving vice president of merchandising and operations) embezzled $65 million before getting caught in 2008.
Fry’s cash crunch forced it to take increasingly desperate measures, resulting in its stores becoming unappealing ghost towns. The Verge’s Sean Hollister reports:
It turned out the company had been forced to switch to a consignment model, only able to attract suppliers willing to get paid for their goods after Fry’s managed to sell them. Many suppliers weren’t. A former employee tells The Verge that Samsung stopped doing business due to unpaid bills, and that Fry’s had eliminated most full-time roles even before the pandemic hit, in order to save money. A long-time store manager tells me employees got paid out (including vacation pay) through February 24th.
Somehow, the chain limped and stumbled along until this month, when it became apparent that Fry’s was done and could no longer remain a going concern.
The company said in its statement it is “in the process of reaching out to its customers with repairs and consignment vendors to help them understand what this will mean for them and the proposed next steps.”
If you had turned over a device you own to Fry’s for repairs, Fry’s advises:
- For customers who have equipment currently being repaired, please email email@example.com, to arrange for return of your equipment.
- For customers with items needing repair under a Performance Service Contract, please call (800) 811‑1745.
- For consignment vendors needing to pick up their consignment inventory at Fry’s locations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please understand if we are a bit slow to respond given the large volume of questions. The Company appreciates your patience and support through this process.
Goodbye, Fry’s, and thanks for all the tech.