Fry’s and Micro Center, But Not CompUSA and BestBuy…
Thanks to my job as well as my interests in technology, I tend to visit most of the major tech stores on a regular basis. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that computer books occupy a smaller portion of the store at CompUSA and BestBuy today than they did a few years ago. In fact, not only is the space smaller, but the books are also generally hidden in one of the lowest traffic areas of the store.
This is the result of the tech downturn, the loss of so many tech jobs, the more tech savvy customer base, etc., right? Lower demand means less shelf space in the store. Sounds fair. But if that’s the case, why do smaller chains like Fry’s and Micro Center have such enormous book sections?
I’m not suggesting that larger book sections at CompUSA and BestBuy would have a huge impact on the computer book market... But, I wonder if part of the diminishing book sales picture at these accounts is a self-fulfilling prophecy: They see sales drop, so they reduce the space, causing sales to drop even faster.
I love shopping at stores like Fry’s and Micro Center, mostly because they seem to have broader selections of a lot of things, not just books. They’re smaller chains, of course, but they seem to attract more of the hard-core techie than some of the larger chains. Maybe the “big guys” could learn a thing or two from the smaller players.
What’s your opinion? Are the CompUSA/BestBuy customers considerably different from the Fry’s/Micro Center ones, at least when it comes to books?
First off, let's get this out of the way -- I hate f**king Best Buy. (That's FBB, for short.) Just hate them. A lot. I really hate them. Bad selection, worse service, even worse customer support. The worst of the worst, in all aspects. Did I mention that I hate them?
And CompUSA isn't much better. Didn't CompUSA used to be a computer retailer? Can't tell that these days. Heck, my local Office Depot (or is it Office Max? I can't tell the difference) has more PCs than CompUSA has. They've turned their back on their strengths, trying to branch out to be a full-line consumer electronics retailer, so now they pretty much suck in a number of different categories.
Fry's, however, is heaven. Maybe not so good for consumer electronics (I still prefer local high-end chains, like Indy's Ovation), but they're a true blue, died-in-the-wool, stock everything you can think of computer store. I can spend hours and hours in Fry's. Why would anyone shop at CompUSA or FBB if there's a Fry's nearby? With a new Fry's open in Indy, I imagine CompUSA and FBB are losing business. If there is a God, they are.
Does it just happen that Fry's has a huge (maybe too huge?) computer book section, and Comp and FBB have next-to-no books anymore? I don't know. Obviously, Comp and FBB are kissing off some nice high-profit add-on sales -- the same sales that Fry's is actively pursuing. That's their loss, and from my experience there's not much a publisher can do to convince them otherwise, short of offering 75% off list and spending big co-op bucks. Probably not worth it, sorry to say.
Did I mention that I hate f**king Best Buy?
Posted by: Michael Miller | July 11, 2005 at 11:07 PM
While not as vehement as Michael, I have to agree with the sentiment. I am not a very big fan of Best buy, and have rarely found them to be so. Unfortunately, I don't have a Fry's nearby, although I have a lot of friends that frequently recommend them.
I didn't even know that best buy or comp usa or circuit city (since there is no comp usa near me either) had book sections...
Posted by: Blaine Moore | July 12, 2005 at 07:27 AM
I'll chime in. I can comment on a personal level and a professional level, as I work with or have worked with more than one of these accounts...er...chains you mention.
I too love Fry's. As a consumer, that is. Only recently am I able to shop there, and I dig it. However, I know that the Fry's history as a book reseller is a shaky one. Yes, their book section is fantastic now. They also have plenty of room in their stores for books, due to the size of each store location. That's key.
I've always liked Micro Center, as a consumer and a colleague. None in my area, but they really know what they are doing. Keep in mind, however, that they too flirted with greatly reducing their book section because books didn't generate nearly as much profit as most other products they carried.
Yes, Best Buy is, well, difficult. But haven't they been a big box retailer for quite some time? Has anyone honestly expected them to be a computer superstore at any point in the last 5, maybe even 10 years? They are a consumer electronics store. I'd like to see them carry more books too, but they carry washing machines and coffee makers for goodness sakes.
CompUSA is somewhere in between. Yes, they have a book section. In it you'll find at least 40 or 50 individual SKUs currently. That's not bad these days. Like most stores which attempt to sell computer books, I'm sure the book section's profitability has declined in recent years, even comparing years when the book section's size did not decrease.
What would you do if you were a business owner carrying a certain product which saw year-over-year declines in revenue? Well, if you wanted to turn a profit, you'd probably look for ways to either A) improve the effectiveness of that product or B) give some or all of that product's merchandising space to a more profitable product.
Fry's didn't have to do either because their stores are big enough that they could sell SUVs if they really wanted to (my local store is housed in a building which once did just that).
Micro Center once did A, switched to B, and I believe is back to A.
Best Buy chose A.
CompUSA has tried both A and B, and is now working on A again.
Oh, and Circuit City hasn't carried computer books for at least 3 years. So I guess that means they chose A.
So anyway, people don't buy as many computer books, folks. It's a tough fact for those of us in the business. And some retailers make decisions which make booksellers happy, others don't. It's up to the top-notch booksellers to prove that books still deserve space in each of these chains, despite each chain's pseudo-unique vision.
Posted by: Jason Marcuson | July 12, 2005 at 09:57 AM
The only time I can go to Fry's is when I travel. I never even think of going to Best Buy or CompUSA for a book. I patronize a local independent bookseller (Page One in Albuquerque, NM) that offers an incredible selection of computer- and technology-related titles and a great special order department that will get me anything I can't find. I'll often browse Amazon to find books but prefer to support my local booksellers whenever I can.
Posted by: Marc Orchant | July 12, 2005 at 12:34 PM
I must say that I patronize Fry's way more than I ever would a Best Buy or a CompUSA. The irony is that my manager (a non technical type), can't stand Fry's too much. It's "too disorganized" and "cluttered" for consumers is what he states. I tend to notice the newer stores are the same way also, wider and more vanilla. As a technical person I will tell you that I KNOW Fry's has what I'm looking for 99% of the time. The staff is useless most of that 99% of the time, but I can often find it without them. BestBuy is just as useless, but it is more frustrating because there is typically no language-barrier at Best Buy, unlike Fry's where (at least in the Bay Area, CA) most staff often is an ESL employee.
Posted by: pkillur | July 18, 2005 at 01:38 PM
What are you people talking about. With help screens in every program who reads books. Also Service at Micro center, Fys and Best buy all suck. I took an Adobe Training class at Compusa and was impressed by their cost effective professional
classes. Comes with the books too. And while I was there I had my laptop optimized.
Posted by: Donna Joyce | June 04, 2006 at 02:11 AM