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The Vanishing Full-Line Electronics Retailer

If, 10 years ago, you were asked which type of physical store we'd see fewer of in 2009, which one would you pick?

* Bookstores, which stock merchandise that requires no hands-on inspection before purchase and cost next to nothing to ship, or;

* Electronics retailers, which carry large and expensive items that often benefit from an up-close evaluation to judge things like the glare on a screen or the feel of a remote control

And yet it looks like the booksellers have done better than the gadget bazaars. When Circuit City's stores -- that is, what's left of them -- close permanently on Sunday, there will be only one nationwide chain selling a full line of consumer-electronics hardware: Best Buy.

Richmond-based Circuit City follows a series of other national operators that went bust earlier -- most recently, CompUSA and Tweeter. (A publicist for CompUSA e-mailed later this afternoon to report that the chain still has stores open in four states, plus online.)

In their absence, buyers who want to inspect the merchandise first-hand have to turn to the electronics departments of general-purpose retailers like Sears, Target and Wal-Mart; the narrower inventories of a Radio Shack or an Apple Store; and such smaller, regional operations as (in the Washington area) the Big Screen Store, Graffiti Audio-Video and MyerEmco.

Online, of course, you've got Amazon.com, Buy.com, NewEgg.com and many others -- it's not as if we've given up on shopping for gadgets, we just don't seem to want to make a separate shopping trip out of it.

Meanwhile, in the book business, we've lost local booksellers Crown and Olsson's, but Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million, among others, continue to soldier on across the country.

I wonder why that is. Do we no longer feel the need to eyeball a new receiver or DVD player up close? Are the cheaper prices offered by Amazon and its ilk just too good to pass up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 6, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Shopping  
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Comments

Actually, yes. When I bought a TV, I bought it through the Internet; I looked at reviews, inspected the specifications, and picked the one that I wanted. I can't remember the last time that I actually bought a piece of electronics from a physical store.

For a book store, I actually think most people aren't there to buy a book. Instead, they're there to soak in the atmosphere and drink overpriced coffee... The coffee is what is being sold there, not the books.

Posted by: Joran | March 6, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, with respect to buying computers, how many HP or Dell stores have you shopped in lately?

I think that our comfort level with buying certain things without seeing them in the flesh and touching them has grown significantly. Obviously, some are more comfortable buying on the Internet than others.

Posted by: Arlington4 | March 6, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but no big box store anywhere is going to offer the kind of diversity in models, features, and price points that you're going to find on the Internet.

Usually a brick and mortar store will offer maybe five different brands of a particular item, like a 27" TV. By shopping online you can get exactly the features you want without paying for those you don't. Also, buying online lets you avoid being shunted into buying a brand with which the retailer has some sort of marketing deal.

Also, in many instances an electronic item will be shipped directly to one's home. This saves gas, time and money.

Probably, folks don't think about price as much when buying a novel near the $15 price point. However, when it comes to spending over $1200 or so on a major purchase, they're going to comparison shop. I don't see how retailers could be expected to beat prices on, say, Amazon, which hasn't nearly as much overhead.

Posted by: 4wheelinzfunz | March 6, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The stores need to make it worth the trip there. Clearly they are not managing to do that. Bottom line, going to stores is simply a waste of time and money.

Their selection of products, policies, and pricing are driven by considerations that don't offer value to the consumer.

You get in the car, drive to the store, face a limited selection and/or find out that the item you want isn't in stock. Or is ridiculously priced due to the stores' policies of thinking you'll watch the sales and make a trip each time they lower the price on the thing you want.

If you can get any advice at all, you get advised to buy the product the store is pushing, not the one that's users find to be best, or right for you.

Why do they think this is worthwhile offering to consumers? Only because it's the way they are used to doing business.

I've ended up with nothing to show for draining, time-wasting trips to stores so many times that I quit going to stores. Now I just wait for the package to arrive.

Posted by: pilgrim1629 | March 6, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I think one of the reasons people are more comfortable with buying electronic gadgets sight unseen is the abundance of customer reviews as well as review videos from tech news sites such as CNET that get attached to each product listing. Yes it is still no match for actually touching an item, but it gives enough information/feedback that people can make a pretty solid decision on whether to buy or not.

Posted by: hankkuo | March 6, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if it has anything to do with customer discomfort at the hard sell. When I used to shop for electronics, there would always be a salesman (yes, doing his job, but...) pushing for the upsell to the top-of-the-line unit and the 3-year protection plan. My preference is to buy online. There's such a wealth of information and customer reviews, and you can't beat the quantity of items to choose from. You can winnow your choices down at your leisure.

I think transport also has something to do with it, too. Shop online and it appears on your doorstep; no schlepping a giant box from the store to car to home.


Posted by: NW_Washington | March 6, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I'd put Crown in with the rest of that crew. Crown was destroyed in the Haft Family Soap Opera. Along with Dart Drug and Trak Auto.

Posted by: wiredog | March 6, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Echoing many of the earlier comments that the wealth of information on electronics available from sources like CNET and avsforum and online retailers like Crutchfield take a lot of BS and FUD out of the purchase process. With free or low-cost delivery and no sales tax what is there not to like? I don't feel the need to touch a TV in order to know that I like it unlike a shirt, sport coat or tie.

Another driver is the fact that a retailer like Best Buy is making insane markups on accessories like HDMI cables. I guess if you need this right now you might be forced to pay $35-50 and get sucked into that fancy oxygen-free Monster speaker cable, but with some planning you can get the HDMI from Monoprice for under $5 and 14 gauge speaker wire for 12 cents per foot. Best Buy does not add any value to the purchase transaction, just a bit of convenience.

Posted by: skipper7 | March 6, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I recently bought a HP laser printer off Amazon with a seven dollar connection cord and paid less than $100 for the printer. One advantage is that I knew what I wanted and I wouldn't have to go down to the local Best Buy and see if it was in stock. I also don't have to carry the damn thing home, just from the reception desk to the apartment.

Posted by: BookGuy | March 6, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I just got back from Best Buy as I needed to replace a keyboard that I had gotten supposedly on "close out sale" at Circuit City that I had spilled coffee on. The first Best Buy keyboard, which was an open box item, didn't work when I brought it home so I made another trip back to get a new one which they gave me at the reduced price. The price for the new item at Best Buy was identical to the one that had supposedly been on "sale" at Circuit City. With the open box discount I actually saved a bit on the new Best Buy board over the Circuit City item.

The problem is that you can't do comparisons on these items when you go to the stores. Circuit City has supposedly been jacking up the prices so they can discount them for their "close out sales". Books are so inexpensive that even if you get ripped off it is only for a couple of bucks, plus shopping at Borders is a social experience where you can sit and have coffee puruse different books, and run into people you know. It's also a better crowd at the bookstore.

Posted by: UsedtoBinDC | March 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

When I bought my HDTV last year, I did all my research on-line but then went to Circuit City to look at the model I wanted. I found a salesperson who knew less than I did and could not find the remote so that I could check out some features. The setup, with all the TVs together, on the brightest settings and tuned to the prettiest channel, did not help me figure out whether I would like the picture, or how the size would look in my house. It was a total waste of time. (I didn't try Best Buy because, well, don't even get me started about their salespeople.) I bought it from CC anyway, based on my research, but I had to argue with them about the price and delivery options because they didn't even know what CircuitCity.com was offering -- I told them they could either give me the same terms, or I'd just go home and order online. My next new TV will probably come from Amazon.

As for bookstores, if I don't know exactly what I want (such as when I want to compare travel books or maps for a trip), there's still no substitute for going to B&N or Borders, grabbing a pile of books, and skimming through all of them (then buying 2 or 3). Sure, you can read some of the contents on Amazon and Google, but it's not the same. But if I know I want the latest book by a certain author, I'll probably get it from Amazon.

Posted by: Janine1 | March 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Rob,

Try looking at it another way: 25 years ago, there wasn't a nationwide electronics store, at all. The best you could come up with was Sears, K-Mart, or Radio Shack.

We were all pretty much dependent on the regionals back then.

And honestly, Circuit vanished a while ago, the body just got cold and planted in the ground.

Posted by: kolbkl | March 6, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Since we can now shop on the internet, (and a great thing that is) - the store then has to have some value added to make a visit worth while. For instance, as a teenager, when I got paid, I made a weekly trip to Kemp Mill Records - I browsed everything, checked the latest Rolling Stone, etc. - it was a destination. Same thing with my local Barnes and Noble - yeah, I go there to buy the latest Grisham or Stephen King, but I spend some time...I browse everything...Best Buy - I go to to buy something specific - there's no destination quality to it at all.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | March 6, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the stores pretty much did themselves in when they stopped having knowledgeable sales people. I hate to see the brick-and-mortar places go but unless they provide the expertise that makes them worth the price difference why bother?

What amazes me is how the stores, of many descriptions, are not willing to lower their prices when they're competing directly with the Internets. Dude make it worth my while to shop here, ya know?

Posted by: ronjaboy | March 6, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Why on Earth would I want to buy expensive electronics locally for what is frequently close to twice the price? Even if I order the wrong thing and hate it, the savings will often cover a "do over."

...and if I'm shopping for something that I wouldn't want to buy online, the national chains probably don't carry it anyway. Carrying mediocre, overpriced product that is designed to appeal to the consumer who wants something that is *ok* is a losing game. Anyone who wants the best will go elsewhere anyway, and people who don't really care certainly won't pay the premium.

Posted by: nrubenstein | March 6, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

For all the chatter about online retailing, the vast majority of consumer electronics (and retail items in general) are still purchased from B&M stores. For all the complaints about stores and their policies, customers still like to see and try things out before purchasing. They simply like having a physical point of sale and return, and don't underestimate the enduring pull of instant gratification. Only with computers, where customers prefer to customize and configure their orders, does the mail order model dominate.

The point Rob misses in his blog post is that electronics retailing was almost exclusively in the hands of regional chains and indie stores until Circuit City began its national expansion in the mid-1980s (Radio Shack was the only other national electronics chain, but they primarily catered to hobbyists at that time). Prior to that, the only national chain stores selling electronics were departments stores and other general merchandisers.

Circuit City dominated the national picture until Best Buy went national and supplanted them. Tweeter made a play at becoming a national player by acquiring regional electronics chains, but their story ended no differently than when other regional electronics chains like Silo fell flat while trying to go national.

With Circuit City and Tweeter going under, we're now back to one national electronics retailer. With the contraction among the national competitors, I expect that this will strengthen the remaining regional electronics chains. These regional stores already know how to survive against multiple national competitors in their markets, and paring down the competition means potential market opportunities for them.

Posted by: SFWooch | March 6, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Once you have selected your TV, printer, or other item, it is easiest to order it online and have it come to you than to drive to a store. There is, unfortunately, no value added by the trip to the store unless they have an interesting inventory of other items you'd like to check out and possibly impulse-buy. Nowadays, that doesn't seem to be the case, unlike a few years ago.

But with books, there are thousands if not tens of thousands in the store, many that you might not have thought to look for online. Browsing through them and coming away with multiple purchases you never even anticipated is the prime bookstore experience. Plus, you get instant gratification and can start reading your newly discovered treasures immediately instead of at the whim of the mail system days later.

In other words, reading is a more personal and enjoyable activity -- a leisure activity -- than, say, upgrading a dead printer.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | March 6, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Arlington4 asks "Well, with respect to buying computers, how many HP or Dell stores have you shopped in lately?"

Which I agree with. But the Apple Store is always mobbed when I go in there. Not just with people hanging out, but with people buying.

I think of the Pentagon City Mall. The Apple Store is filled with people while the Sony Style store almost next door is a ghost town.

Posted by: nashpaul | March 6, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

My preference is to walk around a real store. Be it a book store or an electronics store. What I didn't like, and it was with the old CompuUSA, was the idea that the salesman knew what I needed, what I wanted. You know, I didn't always know what I wanted. It was good if the salesman knew to not be pushy and oversell. Now the problem seems to be that many on the sales staffs don't really know answers, don't know the merchandise, don't relate to customers (be it directing them where to go - and I don't mean it THAT way - or taking them the correct aisle/section), and don't know the merchandise.

Gone are the days of Home Depot having a professional in each aisle/each section but just as I wouldn't shop for tools and buidling/maintenance supplies on-line, I prefer not to shop for books or electronics on-line. I like to be able to see, touch, feel what I'm getting. Even if it involves a cup of coffee at my local bookstore.

Dungarees@gmail.com

Posted by: Dungarees | March 6, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget craigslist and freecycling. I just bought a $25 tube tv from someone. Most of my friends buy and sell their electronics equipment via craigslist.

Posted by: mediajunky | March 6, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I recently wanted to buy a new computer, so I visited several retailers in two local towns to see what they had. Every PC ran on the hated VISTA, many the 64-bit version. I was told it would cost several hundred dollars to install a video card which would (1) run a second monitor, and (2) would use its own memory instead of stealing memory from my application. In addition, I would have been forced to buy a small monitor I did not need. Finally, I must upgrade to a user-hostile version of Office (Pro semed to squander at least another $500) which would have required me to provide my friends txt or rtf files from WORD and delimited flat files from everything else.
Since I knew a shop that had built me a computer several years back, I asked if they would "glue together" something that ran under XP, and could I buy some of the parts online to save sales tax.
I found an un-named Intel processor (a Core I 7) that used DDR3 memory, which I hadn't seen mentioned in stores. The shop found something called a GeForce 7200 GS graphics card that seems to do its job,and I don't have VISTA to aggravate me. (I'm told that this 6GB system could run it, if needed.)

Posted by: lrmc623 | March 6, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Apple stores are an outlier due to the cult-like following of this brand (btw, not a hater - I have owned more than 15 Mac computers since 1984) and the fact that it is really about the only retailer you can get reasonably well-informed advice and service.

IMO, the reason that most electronics purchases still happen in B&M stores is that most people are just too lazy or ignorant about the realities of buying these items online or assume that the sales staff actually knows something. They get excited by how great that 50" plasma looks, not realizing that it is on 'blow torch' mode with the settings at a level you would never use at home while the sales person goes on and on about black level and contrast ratio. These people may check out Consumer Reports, but that is just one rating dimension.

B&M will never go away and these companies realize that there really is not a reason to change, especially BB now that it has no competition.

Posted by: skipper7 | March 6, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I regard myself as moderately tech-savvy, having owned computers since 1982 and having been an early user of the Internet, e-mail, etc.

Nonetheless, my experiences with the Best Buys and Circuit City's of the world have been uniformly dismal. Staff either doesn't seem to have a clue about the products they are selling or they are overly anxious to prove how superior their tech knowledge is to mine, with no effort being made to help me as a customer get answers to my questions.

So I go home, go on-line, do a little searching, and find the information I need to make my purchases. I have found it not at all surprising that these stores are working themselves out of existence through their inattention to customer needs.

Posted by: hsl2000 | March 6, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Y'all forgot to mention the barrage of questions at the cash register which had no parallel in any other retail experience. And the way they'd want to search you before you can leave the store. Or when they run after you in the parking lot. Every time I went into Circuit City my mood was ruined for three hours. Too much like the Transportation Safety Administration for my tastes. I'd rather type in my Credit Card number and privately wait for the package to hit my door.

Posted by: roketscientist | March 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I prefer to buy from a retail store because I am at work all day so I don't want the UPS guy leaving a $800 TV on my front door step where it can be stolen or rained on. Even if it says adult signature required they still leave it.

Posted by: buffysummers | March 6, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I think Amazon arranges for home delivery and set-up by a service (not UPS dropoff). But maybe that's just for the larger widescreens.

Posted by: Janine1 | March 6, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I've shopped and bought electronics from all 4 vendors (Circuit City, Tweeter, Best Buy, Myer-Emco).

Too bad Circuit City and Tweeter went out of business. Now consumers in the DC area are stuck with Best Buy (teen-age "sales consultants") and Myer-Emco (if you're not buying a complete home theater from me, you're not worth talking to).

And for those who advocate Internet shopping, how can you compare picture and sound qualities between different TV sets and speakers if you're not at the actual show rooms? Don't tell you trust the Internet reviewers too...

Posted by: linux_fan | March 6, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the internet has become the best way to purchase computers. No one I know will buy one at Best Buy due to their policies (restocking fees, etc) and bad shopping experience generally. I'm not in the DC area, and we still have OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples, Costco, the Apple Store, Electronic Express, and HH Gregg if we absolutely have to try before we buy.

Posted by: 5232news | March 6, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

It's mentioned in another comment that TV retailers tune all of their sets to the channel with the best reception and turn controls to maximum bright. That's quite true, and it's impossible to figure out how to adjust sets in a store in order to make a valid comparison. There's a comparable phenomenon with audio listening rooms in stores; it's just about impossible to get an idea of how a piece of equipment will sound in your home. For computer purchases, it seems that staff are trained to deliver one (irrelevant) spiel and that they know nothing more than that. In stores, accessories for everything are wildly overpriced. Information on reliability isn't available.

So, electronics stores provide a shopping vacuum. It's better to go on-line, even with the surfeit of free advice and the recent trend of manufacturers paying individuals to give favorable reviews to their products on websites.

An exception in my experience has been the regional operation, Graffiti Audio-Video. Their product selection seems to have been made carefully; that is, selection is narrow but that's a good thing. I've gone there on several occasions to make significant purchases after becoming befuddled on-line and have been quite pleased with the results. Their prices are competitive.

Myer-Emco was excellent, although high-priced, for a long, long time. They completely lost their sense of direction a couple of decades ago, unfortunately.

Posted by: CantCatchMe77 | March 6, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

And for those who advocate Internet shopping, how can you compare picture and sound qualities between different TV sets and speakers if you're not at the actual show rooms? Don't tell you trust the Internet reviewers too...

Posted by: linux_fan | March 6, 2009 5:14 PM

Yes, I trust the Internet reviewers. When I set out to buy my current TV (a 62" Samsung DLP), I looked at the Amazon reviews and the CNet reviews, along with probably 2-3 other online reviews. I also borrowed my parents' copy of Consumer Reports and looked at the reviews as well. CNet usually has pretty nice and indepth reviews and I trust them.

I'm very happy with my current TV.

Posted by: Joran | March 6, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Lots of commenters have cited lots of very valid reasons to prefer ordering online to buying in a store. I tend to agree, yet there are categories of electronics where I wouldn't think of ordering online. That's especially the case if it's a type of item I'm buying for the first time, or just one where feel, ease of operation, the position of the controls, etc., are important.
Best Buy survives, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it die off too. I think they've surpassed teh limit of the big-box approach (TVs, phones, and refrigerators in the same store?), and that there is room for smaller, more focused stores that might specialize in a part of the spectrum.

Posted by: threeoaksgone | March 6, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Cities and towns love brick and morter stores. They are probably missing the sales tax from all of the strip malls.

Posted by: lwps | March 6, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Uh... did I miss somebody mentioning Micro Center? There's one in NOVA, and they're not limited to computers.

Posted by: tryks | March 6, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

For home theater and audio the best dealer in the area is Gifted Listener in Centerville, VA. Now we are talking up scale here and not Worst Buy.

The Big Screen store has great prices and great service. And back a few days before Xmas the Sony store was selling their cheapest blu ray for $199 with an email coupon.

With a Tv I want to see the picture and I want to hear the electronics and speakers.

Posted by: sheepherder | March 6, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

When I moved into my current abode, one of the first things I did was head to COSTCO for a 46" Sharp Aquos. I did my research online, and they had enough of a selection so that I could reasonably decide if I liked the picture quality better on the Sharp or the Panasonic... Price was decent, too.

Posted by: wdrudman | March 6, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Rob We just bought a 65" Mitsubishi TV from BestBuy.
I shopped prices and they had a better price then Amazon.
I have bought electronics from Amazon, but a purhase this big I want to see and touch.

Posted by: nhgoldberg | March 6, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

It is surreal to see the electronics stores disappearing. CompUSA was really useful to my business. I purchased a lot of equipment there. But, the reality is that Staples has most of the same stuff, if not the same selection.

Cheaper products are in some ways more immune to comparison shopping. Am I going to be willing to pay shipping to save 10% on a hardback book? The two or three dollar savings aren't worth it. However, the same savings on a thousand dollar television may be well worth the inconvenience.

Posted by: fletc3her | March 6, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Since electronics shoppers, for new equipment are more likely from the nerdy end of the population, it is natural to shop for these items on the internet. When shopping at a big box, the sellers have limited information and a buyer cannot easily tell true information from a sales pitch.

Online, comparison shopping, information and some reviews are readily available. Why would you go to a store for these items?

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 6, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Times have changed the buying market.

Consider the caliber of home audio products Best Buy offers; "all-in-one" box systems that would hardly pass as basic "hi-fi" quality. The boomer generation that grew up in the heyday of hi-fi, is getting old and moving out of the market.

Face the facts: there isn't enough of a market demand to keep retailers of moderate to high-end goods in business.

Yes, TV's still sell, but audio has always been the profit center.

And when names like Yamaha and Denon have to retool their lines to stay competitive with all the cheap stuff awash in the market, products will perform poorly and the more sophisticated buyers will have to pay for the high-end niche product or go without.

Posted by: dlkimura | March 6, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I do all my research online so buying my electronics online is an extension of that. Moreover, stores have limited selections, incompetent salespeople and horrendous prices. The only exception is Costco, which extends warranties for an extra year and comes out just about as cheap as online. However, their selection is limited. Where books are concerned, they cost much less so one is more likely to make an impulse buy and if it costs more than Amazon the difference is not so great. Even there though I buy authors that I know that I like through Amazon.

Posted by: iansmccarthy | March 6, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Two generations ago retailers where run by professionals. The salespeople made enough to live a middle class lifestyle, had health insurance a pensions. They were trained regularly. They could really be a help.

But retailers just stopped paying these people. In fact retailer job now has become synonymous with loser. They likely live in the basement of their parents house, used their bicycle to get to work. Their stereo is probably an iPod shuffle, their most expensive piece of electronics is probably their Sony PSP, for which they cannot afford games, or music.

When you order on line, at least you don't have to actually see that your salesperson is wearing shoes discarded by homeless person.

Posted by: RobertLeeHotchkisss | March 6, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Fry's Electronics still exists around here in the East Bay and in several states.

Book stores have a far less time-sensitive product and a smaller capital investment. But I'm still awaiting a shake-out. Some of the chains won't survive this economic fiasco.

Posted by: featheredge9 | March 7, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Rob, after being disgusted from visits to Best Buy and Circuit City, I turned to the internet. I purchased a brand new loaded laptop direct from HP (shopping.hp.com) for $608, free shipping! It's no wonder these stores are closing.

Posted by: geraldz | March 7, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I think this is an opportunity for Sears to become a player. Lets see if they can pull it off. As for books I buy online 90%

Posted by: pdmjr99 | March 9, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

pdm
No,no,not Sears, which after being bought by K Mart, has become just another downscale, cheap goods junk store. Unless it has a Craftsman brand and is a hand tool, I would never buy from Sears.

Posted by: Geezer4 | March 9, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

The family run electronics retailer that also services equipment is still alive and well in Central PA. Some are better than others. I would always make a major purchase locally if given a choice. It would be a real hassle to return a large flat panel TV that was DOA. The small family owned business owner that did not follow the corporate heard by being overextended with debt to expand and buy market share is surviving. I have bought lots of stuff at Circuit City and was very happy with the sales staff and service as well as the prices.

Posted by: george_b_42 | March 9, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how Best Buy stays in the electronic business. New Egg prices are much, much better than Best Buy's. Like previous posters noted you do not get sucked in by the outright intellegence robbing aftersales piches that Best Buy throws at the unwearry and uninformed customers while charging a premium price on often end of line hardware.

Also, generally speaking, I don't buy the idea of paper thin margins in PC hardware. While the economy was booming even inexpensive parts had fat margines. My property values & investments have been halved. How about retailers reflecting market realities? I'll buy again when they do. The cheapest PC on the market have a total part cost of less than $100 and yet they offer me a deal for $299, Forget it. I build it myself for $150 and my cutomers can get it for less than 200. To many business are in denial of present day economic realities, waiting for the Government to bail them out.

Posted by: albertv223 | March 10, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad that stores like Circuit City and CompUSA are gone. They were next to useless and they had never heard of customer service. Best Buy isn't much better on that score. They stand around conversing with each other and then are put out when you ask for a little assistance. Essentially petulant techno geek teens who have no interest in your needs. And when you buy a product you were misguided on, trying to get a refund is like pulling teeth. I shop the Internet primarily using Apple, Amazon, Costco. Never a problem.

Posted by: Calabrese99 | March 10, 2009 5:21 AM | Report abuse

I certainly hope the specialized electronics stores don't all disappear. Speaking as a non-technology old geezer, I frequently need to rely on these store clerks just to figure out what I'm looking for. I know what I want or what I want it to do, but frequently don't know what it's called or how to work/connect it and the clerks at general merchandise stores rarely know more than I do.

Then I check prices and recommendation on the internet. If the store price is reasonable, I would prefer to buy the item locally, although online with shipping to my door is quite nice for larger items.

Posted by: nospam976 | March 11, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Ok..OK....First of all why do we have so many ignorant people putting up comments?
Because YOU want to pay the cheapest price doesn't mean that a company does not need to exist. Why is Capital Grille and Ruth Chris' steak house still around....You know that it's overpriced food...there's no way that a glass of Wine should cost $10+.....why is Radio Shack ALLOWED to sell a FUSE that costs .25 for $5.00. Why is McDonald's selling Soda that costs them .11 for $2.09?
The reason why Best Buy has succeeded is because they have been able to cater to the MAJORITY of the consumer...they are not the solution to everyone. If price is all you are after, Local retailers may not be your place. But at the same time be fair and stop going to these store to look and ask questions so that you can go on the internet to buy it.....that is being hypocritical....Understand the American Economy and the need for these stores to exist......Companies like Best Buy employ over 150,000 people worldwide.....

Posted by: luiscast89hotmailcom | March 11, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I personally like going to electronic stores and looking at all of the new stuff. I loved Tweeter/HiFi Buys for their higher end stuff, but with the economy over the past year, people just were not spending big on those things. Circuit City has been struggling since the days they stopped selling appliances back in about 2000.

I don't plan on buying a big TV on line due to it being shipped by FedEx or UPS and the hassles of returns, but smaller items, like receivers, cameras, heck yea!

I think the next type of stores to have problems will be camera stores. The only really big chain, Ritz/Wolf is not willing to match any interent pricing, and they will not be able to compete with Amazon, B&H, Adorama, etc.

I am currently looking for a new AV receiver, and all research and the purchase will be done on line.

Posted by: jbriganc | March 11, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

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