The Sort-Of Comeback Of CompUSA

We previously reported that CompUSA refuses to die, and has reappeared. What I never expected to see was an article in BusinessWeek touting the reborn CompUSA’s success.

Apparently, the secret lay in…um, making the stores look cool and connecting demo PCs to the Internet so customers can comparison shop. How novel!

In essence, CompUSA’s new owner is turning the stores into Internet entrance ramps. PC and television monitors not only display eye-catching clips, as they do in most retail chains; each points as well to the device’s product page on the Web site. Shoppers can also check store inventories and even browse competitors’ sites to compare prices. “We want to give people the rich experience of buying online,” says Gilbert Fiorentino, who heads the chain’s retail strategy.

If they want to duplicate rich experience of buying online, do you think anyone would complain if I walked into the store wearing fuzzy slippers and carrying a plate of waffles?

How CompUSA Made a Comeback [BusinessWeek] (Thanks, Geoff!)

(Photo: qnr)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I love waffles.. if you bring waffles in you have to bring enough to share with everyone.. It’s only fair.

  2. downwithmonstercable says:

    I read the article, and I don’t get it. It kind of sounds like a larger scale Apple store…am I way off here?

  3. exploded says:

    I was in the tigerdirect store in Schaumburg IL on Saturday. They’re transitioning it to a CompUSA. It has a much more nerdy feel to it than CompUSA used to. There are aisles of motherboards and GPUs right up front. The flat screens and home theater entertainment section is towards the back of the store.

    I had a good experience there and will definitely go back. The prices are comparable to tiger direct’s online prices, so you’re not paying a huge premium to buy in a brick and moartar. That is key to making this a success…

    • Mr_D says:

      @exploded: You may not pay a premium for brick and mortar, but you do get hit with the 10% Stroger’s Delight Tax. Which is why my big-ticket computer purchases are at Newegg or Amazon.

      • exploded says:

        @Mr_D: That is VERY true. I will continue to purchase online for big stuff. I was buying a DVI cable, and needed it right away, so buying online wasn’t an option

        As an aside: with the whole sales tax and metered parking situation, I REALLY hope the next election cycle sees a major change in city and county government. I won’t be voting for anyone currently in office. It’s the downside of Chicago being a city run by democrats, the primaries are much more important than the generals, but no one cares much about the primaries.

      • Joeb5 says:

        not if you go the Naperville, IL one with the full warehouse.

  4. Daniel Beahn says:

    It’s only CompUSA in name. I have one of these just down the street, and the arrangement and type of merchandise carried is vastly different. It’s now more like a mini Fry’s than a CompUSA. There also seems to be a focus on customer care – employees are friendly and seem to enjoy being helpful. It worth noting that the employees say the new company treats them a lot better than the old one.

    So treating your employees well = employees treat customers well = Business Week touts your success.

  5. moore850 says:

    It will work until they realize that everyone’s going in there to buy from tigerdirect, and then they’ll start fudging the prices via an internal XSS attack, and then they’ll go out of business again.

    • bwcbwc says:

      @moore850: I thought the folks that bought CompUSA are the ones that own Tiger Direct.

      @Daniel Beahn: Actually, it kind of reminds me of the old CompUSA before they started selling consumer electronics. Back in the day they were a lot more like Fry’s although not quite so hard core.

    • united316 says:

      @moore850: well I worked for them for 9 + years and loved every second of it. And as you say “fudging the prices via an internal XSS attack” I hope not we don’t need another best buy in this world.

  6. Jfielder says:

    Well that depends… are they delicious home made waffles? Or poopy frozen waffles? If they’re poopy frozen waffles then no one will care, because they just aren’t tasty. Home made waffles on the other hand, I’m sure you might experience some resistance… although they could make for a good bargaining chip when buying a high dollar item.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @jfielder23: I don’t have my own waffle iron. That’s where this all falls apart. Otherwise, I’d have waffles from scratch with homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Flirt with tech salespeople, then feed them, that’s what I say.

  7. Nick says:

    I went to a Tiger direct store in Schaumberg that is in the process of converting to a CompUSA. Everything about the experience was the antithesis of the Apple Store; not only that, Windows (I run it on my Mac for AutoCAD) cost more than Mac OSX. Seriously, if you want to save money, time and many headaches over the long run, buy a Mac at the Apple store and skip CompUSA.

    • sinfonian94 says:

      @mnicolson: Schaumburg

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @mnicolson: Did Shilly McShillson actually just try to say something about Apple being a way to *save money*? Hee!

    • bwcbwc says:

      @mnicolson: I’ll buy a Mac when Apple finally gives up and admits that mice need two buttons. I don’t care about scroll wheels or multi-button gaming mousies, but one button is ridiculous.

      • Battlehork says:

        @bwcbwc: The mice that come with new desktops actually do have two buttons, it just looks like it’s one. On the laptops you can either tap the trackpad with two fingers, or rest two fingers on it and click the button for right click.

  8. Skunky says:

    At least you wear something while you shop, I would just have the plate of waffles.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thats why here in South Florida the turn over rate of employees is like a revolving door. The new management is old circuit city managers that were hired after their demise. They are slowing bring in their own people. Once the Retail 2.0 gimmick is up, to much backed maintenance to keep running properly, the CompUSA that we have despised in the past will emerge again. I give it a 5 yr. run before it tumbles again. Trust me the same tactics are being used just with different faces. One of the many reasons I left. I may soon write the Confessions of a New CompUSA employee it may enlighten you all. Lets just say they are not treating there employees right, so bad customer service will soon follow.

  10. lhfan04 says:

    Over here we got one CompUSA. I have not gone there yet though, but we get there ads in the paper. Although better than Best Buy they are still much more expensive than Fry’s.

  11. twoback says:

    I have gone there several times in the last few months in Tampa, FL. On average things I have bought there have been cheaper than online stores like Newegg or about equal plus Newegg’s shipping. Same prices and I can get something today instead of waiting. They have a decent stock of all kinds of memory, CPUS, motherboards and other stuff you can’t find anywhere else locally in a store. We haven’t had access to this much stuff locally since TCWO shut down. I’m all for it.

  12. Randy Computertv says:

    Actually, it’s nothing like an Apple store, aside from the Internet connection.

    Desktops and Laptops call out their features on the monitor as you walk by. Once you touch the keyboard, it pulls up a page very similar to that online with in-store stock quantity, videos, photos, manuals and other information – like measurements, etc. Plus, pricing, customer reviews, etc.

    The monitor and TV departments are individually connected to their own PC. This allows each monitor and TV to have the same experience as a laptop or desktop. Touch the keyboard with built-in touchpad in front of the LCD or TV and you get information, otherwise it’s calling out it’s specs and playing HD content.

    Many aisles have stations where you can access product selectors (ie memory and ink aisles), or scan any product and get all the product information, like the other stations.

    The latest element provides a similar experience when you pull a camera, gps or cellphone from it’s “holster” (that ties down the product). At these displays, lift the item, the information appears before you on the screen.

    Finally, each station allows pretty much free access throughout the internet, save for things which aren’t family safe. You can even pull up other websites to get their prices, etc.

    It is a totally new experience and allows people to do what they do anyway – read everything they can online, comparison shop, etc.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @Randy Computertv: It’s not that I mind when this kind of stuff (stuff obviously written by the company in question) is posted — it’s perfectly fair and interesting to give the full breakdown of the new features. But IMO you DO need to identify yourself as someone who’s working for them, or you shoot your own credibility right in the foot.

  13. fencepost says:

    I buy stuff at the Schaumburg store regularly – it’s convenient, and while the prices might be higher than I could find online they’re still TigerDirect reasonable prices and I don’t have to pay for shipping.
    In addition, at least for a time if you went into the store to purchase something and it wasn’t in stock, they’d ship it to you free. Handy for some items. Not sure if this is still in effect.

  14. Randy Computertv says:

    Sorry Mary Marsala with Fries,

    I am an employee of Systemax who works on ComputerTV. We have made several videos about the CompUSA Retail 2.0 concept and hence my familiarity with it.

    Note, my comment is strictly a definition of the system which people don’t really understand until they’ve used and seen it in action.

    Sorry for not explicitly stating I work for a ‘sister’ division of the parent company of CompUSA.

  15. PLATTWORX says:

    I love Business Week but I don’t see any earth shattering news in this story. CompUSA was run into the ground and died. Someone came along and bought the name and some old stores and now running them correctly under new management on a smaller scale.

    Systemax was right and they probably can relaunch Circuit City again too. Just because one group of idiots distroy a chain doesn’t mean the brand name does not have value and be revived after the bad company is dead and the fools who ran it gone. Good work Systemax!

  16. Anonymous says:

    We have one of the remaining CompUSA/Systemax/TigerDirect stores down here in Puerto Rico, and I have to say, overall, I’ve been quite happy with them since the ‘big change’.Main thing I like? That if there’s something I want from the page that I want, and they don’t have it physically at the store, I can pay for it at the store, pay *no* shipping, and have it delivered to my house.

    I just bought one of those little Creative HD pocket video cameras that way, after reading some good reviews of it online. Went to the store, pulled the page up on one of their computers, showed it to one of the employess, he checked and made sure they didn’t have it in the store already, then took me to the cash register, I paid for it as if I had bought it at the store, gave them my address, they said it would be 5-8 days until it arrived. Imagine my surprise when the very next day, less than 24 hours later, an UPS truck pulls up in front of my house with the package! Needless to say, I was all kinds of thrilled. Really really happy with their service, prices, and speed, at least so far. Let’s see if they keep it up.