Fry’s Electronics, the beloved chain known for its colorfully themed storefronts, is shutting down for good. It may look as if Fry’s is just another victim of the pandemic-era retail apocalypse, but the chain’s demise has been a long time coming.
The San Francisco-based chain is closing all of its 31 stores, according to local broadcaster KRON4. The company deleted its Facebook page, set its Twitter to private, and shut down its website, leaving a behind farewell statement.
“After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said in the statement.
Like many electronics stores, Fry’s had been struggling for years due to online retailers like Amazon and Newegg drawing in customers. Back in 2019, customers were posting pictures on social media of empty shelves. By the time the pandemic brought retail to a near standstill, Fry’s had reached the end of the line.
This map shows all 31 Fry’s locations, most of which are near San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston. Some of the more well-known locations have already shut down, including the Western-themed store in Palo Alto, which closed in December 2019. An ancient Egypt-themed store in Campbell, California closed last November, further fueling rumors that Fry’s was going under.
Fry’s Twitter and Facebook followers have been declining for some time. Facebook likes hit their peak of 1.31 million in January 2018, while Twitter followers last reached a high of 35,700 in March 2020, right before the pandemic. The drop in social media presence could be attributed to the company’s lack of posting in recent months, as well as a general lack of support following store closures and customer complaints.
According to LinkedIn, Fry’s had slowly been reducing its headcount since August 2019 (the dramatic dip on December 19, 2019 is due to LinkedIn removing ghost accounts from its database). By December 20, the chain had around 2,450 employees. As of February 2021, that number has fallen to 2,260.
Perhaps the end of Fry’s should come as no surprise. Aside from bigger fish like Amazon stealing customers and COVID keeping them indoors, Fry’s was long known for its bad customer service, slow returns, and faulty products. The chain had been forced to take on a consignment model in recent years, only charging suppliers after sales were made. There haven’t been full-time store employees since before the pandemic, another effort by the company to save money.
Although the company will live on in the memories of Silicon Valley video game nerds for years, Fry’s couldn’t keep up with the changing tide of electronics retail or withstand the pandemic, which accelerated the closures of countless stores. At least Radioshack still has around 400 locations.
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