Fry’s Electronics shut their doors yesterday. It wasn’t really a surprise to anyone who had been inside any of the stores in the past two years or so. Social media posts with bare shelves and missing fixtures were growing all the time. I would get a weekly email from them about online deals and such but even those dried up.
For folks who had never been in one, Fry’s was like a Bestbuy/Radio Shack/Newegg hybrid store. You could get a new fridge, a full-on home entertainment center, installed car audio, ham radios, cds/movies, a new Mac, PC building components, electronic testing equipment, soldering stations, through hole components, or almost anything that pumped electrons through it. Back in the early to mid 2000’s Fry’s was where you went when your video card or whatever broke on your PC and you needed a new one that day to play Quake with your friends. You would have gone in for thermal paste and come out with a hard drive, keyboard, and a Bawls root beer.
While it was cool to go into for things you couldn’t order in time or were sold out somewhere, the online shops really cut into their sales. We always bought PC components off Newegg (before you could get them on Amazon), tapes and cd’s from Bestbuy, and Radio shack was always closer to me for through-hole resistors and LED’s. Fry’s was a fun thing to go to once a year or on a special occasion to just look at all the cool new stuff. When Radio Shack closed all of their stores Fry’s was the only place left to run in to grab reed switches and hookup wire for a last minute project. (DigiKey now takes over that spot in this house.) Fry’s had an online store but it was very basic and difficult to navigate as it resembled an online inventory program more than a retail site.
Just like the days of needing to buy a stack of 100 blank CD-R’s for college, being able to walk into a store and buy the latest video card, or grabbing a new mouse and snacks for the LAN party, Fry’s will now be just as distant of a memory. Are physical stores going to go the way of physical media? I don’t think so. Someone somewhere will need that pack of 10kohm resistors before noon, or grab a last minute copy of a game as a gift. Not every location has same day Amazon delivery and these days delivery isn’t what it used to be. It would be nice to see a resurgence of in-store shopping after the virus dies down. You never know if the item you ordered online is legit or used. Getting groceries online is a toss up. Having the option to buy something physically and instantly in a shop should never go away.