Newsletter #419 Preview: CompUSA Self-Destructs

December 9th, 2007

I used to joke how few people knew anything over at CompUSA, except, perhaps, how to overcharge. This isn’t to say that the Apple “store-within-a-store” was necessarily bad, though. As it was, some of the CompUSA outlets actually had Mac fans on their staff who made a game effort to understand the products they were selling. More recently, they even had Apple reps on board to make sure that the sales environment met corporate standards.

Indeed, it did, as the local Apple person at the CompUSA outlet in Scottsdale, AZ was a wealth of solid information, even extending beyond the company’s core product line. The latest hardware from the “Mother Ship” was always on display, and there was even a small selection of peripherals and software. So you didn’t have to hope you’d accidently run across a cross-platform box or a product elsewhere with the famous Mac OS logo on it.

However CompUSA’s management evidently failed to take heed of the rise of such big box outlets as Best Buy and Circuit City, which also sold personal computers. Add to the list such discounters as Wal-Mart, and you could see the handwriting on the wall.

In fact, there came a time where I pretty much gave up on making a purchase at CompUSA. You could buy the very same products elsewhere for less money, and even their own house brands failed to yield the appropriate discounts.

I suppose, then, that I wasn’t surprised when the fateful decision was made earlier this year to close down more than half of the chain’s stores, including most of the branches in Arizona. Yes, I suppose I did benefit, because I caught a great fire sale price on a second internal SATA drive for my Power Mac G5 Quad.

Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter.

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4 Responses to “Newsletter #419 Preview: CompUSA Self-Destructs”

  1. Tom B says:

    The concept of buying a computer from some slacker at Best Buy who wasn’t born when the Mac debuted in 1984 makes me cringe. It makes me happy Apple Stores exist.

  2. The concept of buying a computer from some slacker at Best Buy who wasn’t born when the Mac debuted in 1984 makes me cringe. It makes me happy Apple Stores exist.

    If you know what you want, and they have it in stock, it may not even matter. Besides, young people can and do understand Macs if they have the experience and training. I wouldn’t put them down for that, even though far too many are just working for the paychecks to help them survive their college educations.

    Remember, when Apple was founded, Jobs and Wozniak were even younger than those folks who were born in 1984 are now.


  3. Dana Sutton says:

    When I was a kid (I’m giving away my age here) there were three little foreign cars of about equal quality on the market, the Morris Minor, the Renault Dauphin, and the original VW Beetle. All three were great cars, but only the third was successful. Beside great advertising, what the VW had going for it was that it was very aggressive in setting up a chain of local dealerships staffed with factory-trained mechanics. In the same way, Apple’s hookup with CompUSA might have have worked if Apple had invested the money to set up regional training centers where salespeople from each participating CompUSA store could be sent (at Apple’s expense) for some kind of familiarization with the Mac. Was it a mistake not to do this? Well, think of all the regions of the country were Apple Stores don’t exist: Apple likes to locate these in large cities and affluent suburbs. But what about The Rest Of Us? Even plenty of university towns with large student bodies (Berkeley, and Madison, to name two — I see that Ann Arbor is getting one), which ought to be obvious candidates for Apple Stores, don’t have them yet. So, if the program had been backed by a greater level of corporate enthusiasm, I think the CompUSA model could have been a success. If Apple wants a bigger slice of market share, they need the same kind of aggressiveness that VW used to make the Beetle the success it was, but they’ve never quite managed to develop this spirit.

  4. oaklandgayasian says:

    Berkeley might not have an Apple Store, but there’s one right next door in Emeryville (Bay Street). There’s even the free Emery-Go-Round shuttle from a nearby BART station so you can take mass transit from UC Berkeley. (Berkeley doesn’t really have the sort of upscale shopping mall that Apple likes. Apple wouldn’t fit on Telegraph Avenue!) Coincidentally, there’s a CompUSA only a few blocks away from Bay Street.

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