CompUSA Moves Into Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronics stores have long carried computer gear, everything from laptops and desktop systems to software and accessories. Computer stores, led by Gateway Country stores, have slowly been moving in the other direction. Now it looks as if convergence in the retail realm is about to take another great leap forward.

On November 19, CompUSA announced that it would be making room for home entertainment products in 181 of its 227 stores. Reflecting "the convergence of technology and entertainment," in the words of a company press release, the effort will put flat-panel televisions, A/V receivers, loudspeaker systems, and other gear normally found at specialty retailers on the computer giant's salesfloors.

The move is a natural response to the continuing blending of data technology and entertainment, according to CompUSA merchandise manager Henry Chiarelli. "Bottom line, home entertainment is quickly moving toward the data technology side of the business, where we succeed now. We're just folding this new product line into our many technology solutions," he explained. The Dallas, TX–based retailer is doing so right in time for the winter holiday shopping season, typically the most profitable time of the year for the electronics industry.

"It's a natural step for us to expand into digital entertainment given the direction that industry has taken," Chiarelli stated. "We call it the merger of the data dots and entertainment dots." In a bit of bravado that may amuse anyone who's tried to have a technical question answered by one of the company's many sales associates, Chiarelli said CompUSA is prepared to venture into the installation end of the business, too. "We are the only company in the industry that has the capability or the resources to come to the house to install the products and make sure the customer understands the features and benefits of the new system," he said. "This capability is unique and 'unmatched' in our industry."

CompUSA plans to offer one-time setup and instruction with each home entertainment system, at no extra charge. Custom installation will be available through a national third-party company called Installs, Inc. Among the products that CompUSA will be stocking are plasma and LCD televisions, DVD players and recorders, and personal video recorders from companies that include Hitachi, Panasonic, TiVo, Pioneer, Yamaha, and Onkyo.