CompUSA Changes Customer Focus

CompUSA Inc., the electronics retailer that recently announced it would close more than half its stores, will attempt to rebuild by narrowing its focus on core customers including gadget lovers and small and medium businesses.

Chief Executive Roman Ross says the company would no longer try "to be everything to everyone."

The Dallas-based chain, which is controlled by Mexico's Grupo Carso SA, planned to announce the new strategy Tuesday.

CompUSA officials said the company plans to increase the number of products in some key growth areas to serve tech enthusiasts, professionals and businesses. It is testing a format in which part of the store would be specifically for small and medium business customers.

Officials said they would stock more products aimed at business users, including bringing back a commercial laser printer, a dot matrix printer and point-of-sale machines. They also plan to hold free seminars for small business owners in the stores.

Ross said the chain was moving away from its current, more general approach to appeal to core customers.

"Our goal is not to be everything to everyone," he said in a statement. "We're focusing our efforts on the customer base that best aligns with our clear value proposition."

CompUSA ran into trouble in the late 1990s as prices fell on its most important product, personal computers. The chain also struggled against big-box competitors such as Best Buy Co. (BBY) and Circuit City (CC) Stores Inc.

In February, CompUSA announced it would close 126 stores in the following three months and get a cash infusion of $440 million to restructure. The company plans to operate 103 stores in 39 states.

On Sunday afternoon, the parking lot outside one of the remaining stores, across from a busy mall in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, was nearly deserted. Inside, a few customers looked at notebook computers. A sales representative in the television section sat by himself.

The privately held chain doesn't release revenue figures. Its parent company is controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, who took CompUSA private in 2000 but kept its headquarters in Dallas.

From mid-2005 through September 2006, the chain churned through two CEOs before settling on Ross, who had worked for Philip Morris' Mexican affiliate, which is partly owned by Grupo Carso. There also has been turnover in other top jobs.