Related link: http://www.frys.com/
Fry’s Electronics is something of a Silicon Valley legend. They’ve got 5 or 6 stores spread throughout the area. The stores are big, full of computer gear, and jammed with high-tech professionals looking to buy things.
Or, at least, they used to be.
At the height of the boom, Fry’s did an amazing business. The stores were jammed with all sorts of weird computer stuff. You could go in and walk out with five hundred dollars worth of stuff you hadn’t heard of but which you had recognized (and knew you needed) as soon as you saw it.
Friends who emigrated from the valley to take technology jobs elsewhere missed it. Sure the service was beyond awful, but Fry’s made up for it in selection and convenience. Visitors to the valley would make sure to stop at Fry’s, to pick up things they couldn’t even hear about in their hometown.
These days? Well, for starters, I hadn’t even been to Fry’s in over a year (a bad sign). Today I stopped on the way home to see if they had a book.
And it’s a very different store. For the most part, they’re selling DVD’s, video games, and appliances. They didn’t have many books, they only had a couple of aisles of software, and most of what they did have was woefully out of date. I’m sorry but if you’re stocking a book on Visual J++ 6.0, you’ve pretty much lost all credibility with me. And if you have more books on Excel than on Java programming, the conversation is over.
Even worse for Fry’s, they had an awful conversion rate. I’d guess that about half of the people who went in left empty-handed. People are going there and not finding anything to buy.
It’s a sign of the long high-tech slump, and of the impact of the internet on retail, but I’m kind of saddened. The old Fry’s, bursting to the seams with customers and equipment, bad service and all, was kind of a landmark for me. The new Fry’s, which pretty much felt like a second rate Best Buy to me, is just depressing.
How are your local high-tech retailers weathering the slump? And where do you go for obscure computer gear?