By Alan Wolf, YSN
Fry’s Electronics, the nine-state superstore for computer components, consumer tech and major appliances, suddenly shut its doors this week after more than three decades in business.
A TWICE Top 50 appliance dealer, the closely-held company had nonetheless been struggling in recent years due to overexpansion, online competition and undercapitalization. In a statement posted on its now defunct e-commerce site, management said the decision to permanently pull the plug stemmed from “changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At its height the box chain operated 34 cavernous megastores from coast to coast, ranging in size from 50,000 to 200,000 square feet. In addition to tech and appliances, the stores sold food, magazines and musical instruments, and many featured elaborate themes, such as gambling (at the Las Vegas location), oil derricks (at a Houston store), and sci-fi films (at the Fry’s in Burbank, Calif.).
The company was founded in Silicon Valley in 1985 by three brothers, John, Randy and David Fry, who grew up in the family grocery business and used the supermarket model to sell everything from potato chips to computer chips. But the company was not without controversy, including a onetime policy of refusing customers refunds; conceding a $2.3 million sexual harassment suit; and the embezzlement of over $65 million by its merchandising and operations VP in a vendor kickback scheme.
More recently, amid bare shelves and empty aisles, the retailer reverted to a consignment sales model and began closing stores.
According to TWICE’s most recent retail tallies, Fry’s ended 2019 with about $900 million in CE sell-through, landing it in 13th place on the Top 100 electronics charts, and some $60 million in appliance revenue, putting it at No. 37 in the magazine’s Top 50 white-goods rankings.