October 8th, 2013 by Mike Fulton

When I first visited Fry’s Electronics in Sunnyvale back in the late 80s, it was a relatively modestly sized store. However as they added more and more locations over the years, the trend has been for the stores to be larger and larger. and yet, they managed to fill that space with all sorts of different electronics items, computers & software, appliances, and more.

The last few years, however has seen a trend for them to fill up more and more shelf space with what can only be affectionately be called crap. Crap of the sort that you see in late-night infomercials. Crap with a sticker that says “as seen on TV ” on the corner of the box.

When I’m at the store, I notice that nobody seems to be looking at these items. Frankly they seem like a waste of shelf space. It’s hard to imagine that Fry’s is making any money off of these items.

Today I happen to stop into the store, and I noticed that they had rearranged a few aisles. The crap piles have increased, and the books section has gone from taking out three rows to taking up half of one row.

The PC and Mac software section seems to have been greatly reduced as well, going down to about one and a half rows. Approximately 1/3 of which is antivirus software.

While understanding that many people are buying their software online these days, I couldn’t understand why the store would be devoting so much shelf space to a goofy french fry maker, Regardless of how easy it may be to use and clean, or why they would reduce software shelf space to do it.

Then it occurred to me. While the size of the store may have made sense 10 or 15 years ago, it’s just too darn big these days. It simply doesn’t make sense for them to stock five or six rows of software like they once did, and the same is true for many other types of product. But they have to use that floorspace for something. You just can’t get away with having a large section of your store sitting empty. Thus the shelf-filling items of the crap variety.

Perhaps eventually they’ll start transitioning to somewhat smaller stores, or perhaps they will subdivide and lease out part of the building to another business.

The problem is, it’s hard not to think of that sort of activity as an indication of failure, even though it’s really just a reflection of the changes in the space requirements of the products being sold.

Let’s hope that Fry’s, and other stores in a similar situation, find the courage to somehow reduce their floorspace before the urge to fill the shelves with anything they can turns them into a brand known primarily as being sellers of crap that you wouldn’t buy if you saw them at the dollar store.