RIP CompUSA

It's not surprising, but it's still of note:

CompUSA will close its remaining doors after the holidays.

Gordon Brothers Group bought what's left of the trail-blazing retailer and is seeking to sell off the pieces -- although the official statement sounds prettier than that.

The company "will initiate an orderly wind-down of CompUSA's retail store operations and is engaged in discussions with various parties regarding the sale of certain assets. CompUSA's 103 retail stores will remain open and staffed during the holiday season, and will offer consumers attractive bargains on computer and electronic products as part of store closing sales," according to a statement released Friday.

The seller is Carlos Slim Helu, chairman of Grupo Carso, the Mexican company that owned a majority stake. Terms were not disclosed.

For channel watchers this move, while long rumored, is still a milestone.

Dallas-based CompUSA was founded 23 years ago and opened its first store a year later. A few years later it snapped up Tandy's Computer City operations to become a tech powerhouse courted by hardware and software vendors.

Channel watchers remember CompUSA and its founder, Nathan Morton, as pioneers in computer retail. CompUSA burst on the scene when most retail outlets -- Computerland and BusinessLand and the like were franchise operations. CompUSA changed all that.

If, as a reporter or simply as a yenta, you wanted to know what was selling and what wasn't, you went to CompUSA and watched the crowds. Even better, you cultivated insiders who had a treasure trove of info of what was hot and what was most definitely not.

In the past decade, as newer chains like Best Buy, Circuit City came on the scene, CompUSA suffered. Last February, it closed down a raft of stores, including my personal favorite in Brighton, Mass. Through all of this, CompUSA was one of the few retail outlets that kept its Apple reseller designation.

For now, CompUSA will be run by Gordon Brothers Group's Bill Weinstein, who is interim president. Current CEO Roman Ross will stay as an advisor for the transition, according to the statement.

As of Sunday, the store's Web site looked unchanged, advertising big sales and free shipping this week.

Barbara Darrow, industry editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Developer News and Redmond Channel Partner, can be reached at bdarrow@1105media.com

Posted by Barbara Darrow on December 09, 2007 at 11:52 AM