While everyone is waiting for the sales at their (not-so-)local CompUSA to begin, and the death rattle is about to be heard, the question that all the would be replacements should investigate is how this company lasted so long.
As far back as I can remember (which is to say, as long as I have cared about computers, or 1988), CompUSA has been a place to look at things that are new, from a close perspective…nothing more. From the start I was a frugal shopper, and that does not mean I’m cheap, I simply don’t wish to overpay for things. This meant that after examining things at the store, it was clear that only very rarely was anything ever a deal at a CompUSA store. When the price looked good in the local paper, it was with the fine print stating that the price was after a rebate. Getting rebates was problematic, as many were returned for some inane reason, and then invalidated when resubmitted.
I can count one one hand the times I actually bought something that was a good deal when I did not have to pick up a rebate form at center on the trip out the door.
Some stores, like Mervyns and Kohl’s, live and die by sale events. This is because the stuff they offer is just so much overpriced mediocrity on a daily basis. It only becomes a deal, of value, or enticing when the monthly sales come. This is precisely why I don’t shop there, and have discouraged others from doing so. This was the model of CompUSA, and while it may work for other goods, it clearly does not with electronics items that are basic commodities. You don’t have to check an IDE drive for ‘fit’, and DDR RAM only comes in two physical sizes, so buying online is not a problem – it is not necessary to go into the store. CompUSA never got this. Few computer retailers do.
Everyone talks about the razor thin margins that computer retailers work with. Having been in the direct sales end of it, I must say it is a bed that these retailers made for themselves. By making price the be-all-and-end-all, once the ‘fat’ was gone, only bare bone was left, and it was too late for the dying patient to be revived.
Instead, a model of service, knowledge, and integrity is what works. If anyone is to revive the chain store of computer equipment, it must be a team that knows that good prices, not necessarily the cheapest, are what works. Knowledge and lack of hype also are needed by the staff. Also, admitting lack of knowledge, and a willingness to get information is absolutely needed.
Many times I have bought something at the local PC Club simply because I am not sure how well it will work in the application I am working on, and the time and effort to return something to an online retailer would be prohibitive. So I pay a little more for the ability to return something in 30 minutes, if needed. Also, a helpful and friendly staff (not always available at PC Club, but many times so) makes me want to spend some time, and money there.
So…anyone wanting to tread in the deep waters of retail computer sales, the above should be committed to memory.
[tags] CompUSA, PC Club, Mervyns, Kohl’s [/tags]
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