RIP, CompUSA

Once a darling of the retail electronics market, CompUSA has been purchased by an investment firm and will close shop after selling as much of its remaining inventory as possible during the holiday season. CompUSA's fall is just the latest in a long series of brick and mortar retailers that couldn't last in a rapidly consolidating market that's been particularly hard-hit by online sales.

CompUSA currently operates over 100 retail stores in the US, and Gordon Brothers Group, which recently acquired the company, said it will close down any that aren't sold off after the holidays. The group is also selling CompUSA's other assets, including the compusa.com Web site and CompUSA TechPro technical support service.

CompUSA was founded in 1984 as Soft Warehouse but changed its name to CompUSA and went public in 1991. It later bought Tandy's Computer City "super store" chain. The company was purchased in 1999 and made private in 2000.

CompUSA lost money its last two years in business and announced in February 2007 that it would close 126 stores as part of a last-ditch effort to save the company. CompUSA contacted rivals such as Circuit City and Micro Electronics to see about a possible sale, but none were interested. Circuit City, of course, has had its own financial problems and has recently launched its own reorganization.

Gordon Brothers Group bought CompUSA late last week for an undisclosed sum. The company specializes in the selling off of assets, inventories, and overstock. According to a press release, Gordon Brothers Group planned to engage immediately in an "orderly wind down" of CompUSA's operations.

Of course, not all electronics retailers are doing poorly. Industry leader Best Buy currently operates 1100 retail stores throughout the US and Canada and reported net earnings of $250 million on revenues of $8.8 billion in the most recent quarter. After recently opening Apple "store within a store" sections to many of its retail outlets--a former attraction at CompuSA--the electronics giant just announced a deal to sell Dell computers as well.

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