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Top PC Chains’ Sales Up 13.7%

One phrase perfectly sums up consumer computer hardware sales in 2000: status quo.

The TWICE 2001 PC Retail Registry experienced little change last year with the top nine retailers retaining their 1999 positions and all, except category leader CompUSA, posting gains that ranged from healthy double-digit sales increases to Sears’ spectacular 62.5-percent hike. For the year, sales grew 13.7 percent, totaling $38.5 billion as consumer demand remained steady throughout the year. More importantly, retailers did not start to feel the effect of the weakening economy until the start of 2001.

CompUSA’s fall-off can be attributed to a rather tumultuous year that saw the chain get purchased by Mexican conglomerate Grupo Carso in January, have long-time CEO James Halpern relieved of his duties in March, and the company eliminate about 1,500 positions in April. The end result was a 5.6-percent drop in sales to $5.5 billion for the year.

Best Buy remained CompUSA’s closest competitor by tallying just less than $5 billion in sales, a 14.4 percent jump, and going on a building spree by opening 54 new stores. Many of these locations were in the suburbs of New York City and the company is in the process of moving into Connecticut. Gateway’s $4.5 billion in sales, up 15.2 percent, kept the company firmly in third place, well ahead of fourth-place Circuit City, which posted a 12.9 percent increase on sales of $3.4 billion.

Staples’ 19.9 percent sales increase on sales of $2.3 billion kept the office superstore chain in fifth place, just ahead of its primary competitor Office Depot, which had just more than $2 billion in sales, up 12.6 percent from 1999.

Dell continued to perform the best out of all the pure direct-to-consumer retailers, retaining seventh place on $1.9 billion in consumer computer hardware sales. In eighth is online and catalog operator PC Connection, which managed to boost sales 35 percent last year to $1.4 billion.

With sales jumping 62.5 percent, Sears put in the best performance of the year in terms of growth in dollars, although it did not translate in a move up the chart from the ninth spot that it held in 1999. The veteran mass merchant put a great deal of effort into revamping its computer and consumer electronic areas and featuring name brand PCs and peripherals. The result was almost $1.2 billion in sales.

West Coast powerhouse retailer Fry’s Electronics closed out the top 10 on the PC Registry, with sales of $948 million generated by its 17 locations, up a nice 14.9 percent from the previous year when it was in 16th place.

Fry’s kept a decent distance between itself and 11th place Micro Warehouse. The latter retailer has the dubious distinction of being the second retailer posting a loss for the year, according to the Registry. The direct seller had sales of $869 million, down 4.7 percent from the prior year. The good news is, despite the loss, the company moved up from 19th place.

The highest-ranking warehouse club on the Registry, Sam’s Club, came in 12th with $714 million in sales, up 8.2 percent. The Wal-Mart spin off was 10th on the list in 1999. Computer specialty chain Micro Center, which opened two new locations in 2000, experienced a 14.5 percent increase on sales of $687 million for 13th place.

With sales of $679 million online/ direct retailer Electronics Boutique just edged out rival for the 14th spot.’s $669 million, up a hefty 32 percent from 1999, was still not enough to stop the retailer from falling two places in 2000 to 15th place. Costco also lost one notch on the list, falling to 16th with sales of $544 million, up about 10 percent.

The four retailers occupying the 16th through 20th places —, RadioShack, IdeaMall and PC Warehouse — brought in between $463 million and $400 million for the year. was the only company to show a loss, down 8 percent. PC Warehouse sales remained flat.

The next 10 spots on the Registry feature companies using just about every retail approach available. The 21st is mass merchant Wal-Mart with its $387 million in sales, up 12.2 percent. Cyberian Outpost, which was purchased by eighth-place Registry member PC Connection last month (see sidebar, p.28). In its last year as an independent e-tailer, Cyberian saw its sales increase more than 100 percent hitting $332 million. The next four positions — OfficeMax, Multiple Zones, Army & Air Force Exchange and QVC — all posted decent increases in 2000. For the most part these retailers occupied basically the same spots on the list as they had in 1999.

The newest addition to the Registry is Kmart, which popped up in 30th place with $184 million in sales.

Hewlett-Packard’s kicks off the last 20 retailers on the list. This manufacturer-direct site pulled in $175 million in 2000, its first full year in business. In 1999 the site made $35 million, placing it 45th on the list. The Home Shopping Network follows HP with $161 million in sales, up 34.2 percent, which helped it move up four spots from 1999. Online and catalog powerhouse CDW did not fare well, with sales declining 13.1 percent to $152 million and leaving the retailer in 31st, five spots lower than its 1999 slot.

Three of the remaining Registry members joined CDW in the loss column for 2000. Nationwide Computers, 34th, sales fell 11.7 percent to $121 million and the chain closed one location, leaving it with four. Used-computer hardware dealer Computer Renaissance lost 17.2 percent and shuttered 37 of the chain’s stores, leaving it with 174.

Micron PC had a poor year, with sales falling 8.5 percent to $119 million. This placed the direct PC dealer in 36th place, down from 32nd in 1999.

NECX Direct came in right behind Micron PC, but its sales jumped 75 percent to $117 million allowing the catalog and online dealer to leap nine positions to 36th place.

Many regional CE dealers worked their way onto the Registry in 2000. ABC Warehouse, BrandsMart U.S.A. and American TV & Appliance all appeared for the first time, placing 46th, 47th and 50th, respectively. ABC Warehouse had sales of $69 million, with BrandsMart just behind at $63 million, and American TV took the final spot with $58 million in sales.

Regional chains The Wiz, H.H. Gregg and Datavision maintained their spots on the list. These three took the 42nd through 44th places, respectively, with sales ranging between $92 million and $86 million.

Top 10 PC Sales Gainers By % Growth

Sales in $ millions