Aside from Micro Center, Fry's Electronics was the brick-and-motor store to get all your PC parts and other tech in the 80s and 90s. It's where my dad and I got our computer supplies when I was a kid. However, I've noticed emptier shelves, a lackluster PC component section, and fewer employees wandering the floor during my recent visits—and I'm not the only one.
While some recent photos from Fry's Anaheim, CA location show slightly better stocked shelves than other locations, it doesn't spell good news for a retailer that was once on the leading edge as far as tech consumer goods were concerned.
For the last few months, Fry's customers have taken to social media and message boards over concern that the tech retail giant will soon go the way of CompUSA, Circuit City, and Radio Shack. Dangerously empty shelves are often seen as an obvious sign of trouble to consumers, especially in an eCommerce-centric world.
The writing is on the wall. Fry's Electronics is donezo. I think there might've been 4 other customers in the store. Most were employees wandering the Incan tomb that is Brokaw Fry's. pic.twitter.com/aLLq5Lm93ROctober 8, 2019
Along with consumers, current and former employees are not convinced either, citing cut hours as a main reason for their concerns. Many have left because they lost their full-time status or are actively looking for other jobs.
Fry's recently switched most of its suppliers to a consignment model, according to spokesperson Manuel Valerio. While the retailer is not liquidating or closing stores (aside from its Palo Alto location in January 2020 due to an expiring lease, which leaves 33 locations across nine states), switching to that model means the suppliers only get paid if their products are sold at Fry's stores.
Unfortunately, this puts a greater risk on the suppliers, and some may not want to to continue to stock their product at Fry's locations if there is less of a chance of it being sold. It's more beneficial to both parties for retailers to extend their payment periods to suppliers, but moving to consignment is often a sign that a retailer is having trouble paying for its product and is attempting to free up more capital.
Speaking with GeekWire, Valerio attributed the empty shelves and fewer employees to a "restructuring of inventory and staffing adjustments" so the company can remain competitive for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Clearing inventory in advance of Black Friday doesn't quite seem the way to go. Fry's does sell products online, but it's generally not the first place that comes to mind when you're looking for the best deals on PCs components or 4K TVs, for instance.
Thanks, The Mercury News.