This week, Silicon Valley-based Fry’s Electronics announced it was closing all its remaining stores and shutting down operations immediately.
This wasn’t a total surprise, because Fry’s had been shuttering stores for the last couple of years. Inventory was limited in those stores that remained open.
What was special about Fry’s? Long before there was Best Buy or Amazon or even ecommerce, Fry’s was the place we visited to get anything and everything related to electronics. Yes, you could buy a complete computer system, but you could also buy all the individual parts to build your own computer from scratch. You could also buy music and movies, appliances, cell phones, the latest gadgets, and even a good array of snack food.
Going to Fry’s was a Silicon Valley experience. The employees were dressed in starched white shirts and ties, but somehow they’d never caught on to the concept of customer satisfaction. They were usually quite knowledgeable, but not very friendly. Sometimes, it was obvious you were bothering them. But there was no better place to get what you needed in one large store.
At one point Fry’s had $2.3 billion in sales, 14,000 employees and 34 stores. Most stores had a theme–like a Western outpost or a Mayan temple or a space ship.
What happened? Quite simply, they missed the cue on ecommerce. Fry’s had an online store, but it was never state-of-the-art. Other more aggressive competitors breezed by them. With Amazon Prime, why would anyone trek to Fry’s and wander the aisles looking for exactly what they needed? The answer is, they wouldn’t.
Fry’s missed the cue that what their customers wanted had changed. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late. Their business model was fried. RIP.
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