Wednesday, February 24, 2021

[Power OFF] Fry's Electronics Cuts the Cord, Shuts Down

Fry’s Electronics is going out of business.  ToNeTo Atlanta has confirmed that the iconic San Jose, California-based retailer has permanently closed all of its stores nationwide.  The company website displayed a "Service Unavailable" error message late Tuesday night which was replaced by a splash page displaying the closure announcement early Wednesday morning.  The message, which addressed the closure and thanked customers, seemed to confirm the rumors that had been percolating on Reddit and other platforms for well over a year regarding the imminent demise of the once wildly popular store.  

The message read in part:  

“After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), 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 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 24, 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.”  

Fry’s was founded in Sunnyvale in 1985 by brothers John, Randy, and Dave Fry, and Kathy Kolder.  The brothers Fry pooled funds that they had received from their father Charles Fry after he sold his supermarket business - Fry's - to Dillons, another supermarket, for $14 million in 1972.  (Fry's Food & Drug and Dillons are today part of The Kroger Co.)  The company aimed to “provide a one-stop-shopping environment for the Hi-Tech Professional,” selling over 50,000 electronic items in each store.  In recent years, however, the stores had become a shadow of their former selves with sparse  merchandise for weeks and later months at a time.  

Over the past few years, Fry’s has closed several stores, including one in Duluth near the Gwinnett Place Mall.  Today, the company operates 31 stores, mainly across California and Texas.  There are fourteen stores in California, eight in Texas, two in Arizona, and one store each in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. 

Nearly all of the retailer's stores had elaborate themes or featured regional history.  In the Bay Area, for instance, the company's Fremont store store featured the 1893 World’s Fair,  San Jose: First astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza, and Sunnyvale: History of Silicon Valley. 

Both the Duluth store, located near Gwinnett Place Mall, which closed in late 2019, and the Milton store, which just closed, were on the more boring side.  Each featured "regional history" and were not nearly as cool as many of the other, older stores.  The Duluth store debuted in 2004.  Following its 2019 closure, it reopened earlier this year as a regional headquarters and dealership for Charlotte-based EchoPark Automotive.  

The 152,000 square foot Milton store, located at 3065 Webb Road, opened in 2006 and sits on more than 17 acres, according to Fulton county tax records.  The property, which Fulton county suggests is owned by Fry's, was appraised in 2020 to be worth a combined (land + building) $12.56 million. 

In their "wind down" message, Fry's attributed both "changes in the retail industry" and "challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic" as reasons for their closure.  In reality, the store failed to maintain its stores, failed to keep up with competition, and was late to move to ecommerce. 

Many techies, customers, tinkerers, and current and former Fry's employees took to twitter and other social media platforms to express their disappointment but also their lack of surprise at the closure.  Many shared stories of recent visits where store shelves were nearly bare or where in some cases HDMI cables and Pepsi 12 packs were merchandised throughout entire aisles.  

Fry's, like other retailers before it, will now join the lists of once beloved businesses now closed for good.  In terms of electronics retailers, Fry's follows in the footsteps of Incredible Universe (from which they purchased some stores), Media Play, HiFi Buys (a single store reopened in Buckhead in 2015), CompUSA, and Circuit City, among others.   

Are you surprised to see Fry's Electronics close all of their stores?  Where do you shop for your electronics needs?  What would you like to see happen to the now former Fry's in Milton?

Please share your thoughts below. 


Anonymous said...

The Milton Fry's is the only one I ever visited and that was once just a few years after it opened. I thought it was neat and seemed to be much more like the old Circuit City in that employees were knowledgeable and helpful. From what I gathered they became just like "everyone else" in retail.

To be fair I've had pretty good luck with Best Buy overall in that I"ve received decent customer service and experienced good employees and selection. Of course I'm not a techie and have pretty basic needs but I just don't think it's good when there is just a single superstore left for any segment.

Mike Faber said...

Always loved going to the stores in California because each store was a different creative design.(Castle, Space Station, etc.) but sadly it never caught on in the rest of the country and the online competition was it's end.

Adam Freedman, Dunwoody PC, LLC said...

That was the longest "circling the drain" ever.

Jml813 said...

True! I'm surprised they lasted as long as they did. It has been an empty store for years although they were the first and only place that had PPE when covid started last year.

BigRedDogATL said...

Fry's should have closed years ago, but tried to hang on. They tried to switch to a business model where all their inventory was on consignment from the supplier, so they wouldn't have to pay for stock up front. This meant that their selection dropped to almost nothing and several of their departments, such as major appliances, had nothing to sell.
So don't expect any good going out of business sales since all the stock will be taken back by their suppliers.

My concern is what happens with their nice big building in Milton/Alpharetta. We don't need any more vacant retail space just sitting around.

Anonymous said...

I’m not sure the scam they have been running the past 18-24 months. The Milton store has had very little inventory and couldn’t have been selling nearly enough to products to pay for the electricity and employees. Maybe Microcenter will take over the location in Milton.

Anonymous said...

I visited the Milton store in December 2020, which was my first visit in about two years. I was stunned to see most of the shelves empty (even demo items were gone, likely taken back by manufacturers who would not sign on to the new "consignment" model). Whole departments were completely empty - no computers, no TVs, no audio equipment, no appliances, etc. The store really looked like it was in the very last week of a long "going out of business sale. When I asked an employee why the store was so bereft of inventory and whether the store was closing, his reply was "oh, no - we get the store fully stocked every week, everything just sells out immediately. We do so much business we can't keep things on the shelf". I genuinely felt bad for him, soI kept my "okay, sure" to myself.

Anonymous said...

Every time I went into the Milton's location, there seemed to be more employees than customers. And why on Earth did they need so many registers at the front when I never saw more than 4-5 open at one time. I think they had more cash registers than a Wal-Mart. Amazon is part of the reason they ended up failing, but also they didn't grasp how to do online commerce at all and looked stuck in the 1990s. This massive space will be an eyesore if left empty, so hopefully it will be put to good use.

Anonymous said...

In an age where online is king, Microcenter and Best Buy are thriving. Fry's had way too much stuff around from snacks to TV's. They needed to focus on a specific niche.

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