Wilfred Schwartz, founder and chairman of the 67-store Federated Group consumer tech chain and a 2015 CT Hall of Fame inductee, died Jan. 17 after a long illness at the age of 91.
Schwartz, along with Best Buy and Circuit City, helped create the CE superstore concept, starting with a 20,000-square-foot showroom in Orange County, Calif., following a failed first attempt in the early 1970s.
According to his Hall of Fame bio, Schwartz leveraged Congress’s 1976 removal of fair trade pricing laws to create a discount cornucopia of consumer tech, which eventually topped 9,000 products from more than 600 manufacturers. His grab-and-go assortment also included higher-margin, limited-distribution and exclusive fare, and by the early 1980s Schwartz took Federated Group public and opened dozens of locations throughout the Southwest, Texas and Kansas, some as large as 40,000 square feet.
Schwartz referred to his stores as “a year-round Consumer Electronics Show,” and promoted them with boisterous TV spots featuring radio and television personality Shadoe Stevens.
He sold his business to Atari for $67.3 million in 1987, which in turn sold it to Silo two years later amid mounting operational losses. He retired in 1993, according to a notice in the Los Angeles Times.
Schwartz is survived by his wife Lita; three daughters; five grandchildren; and two siblings. Arrangements for a memorial service are forthcoming, the notice indicated.