It’s been standing room only a lot lately at Micro Center, a computer and electronic device retailer whose Denver outlet has seen socially distant lines go out the door.
“I need ink cartridges for my printer,” said one customer.
“My monitor burned out so I need another one,” said another.
“Just making a quick trip, preordered so that I could get a quick pickup, have all the gear ready to go,” said a third.
In contrast to other parts of the economy, business is up here. More people working remotely means more demand for computers and computer accessories.
“I’m not used to doing the work at home so I need something to get things up to par,” said one man waiting in line.
According to market researcher NPD Group, U.S. sales of computers were up 40% in the first three weeks of March compared to the same period a year before. Keyboard sales were up 64% and PC headset and monitor sales way more than that.
“I don’t think any of us expected the surge that we saw,” said Skip Dwyer, Micro Center District Manager. “Even by limiting the number of people that are coming into the store at any one time has not impacted our volume. We’ve been able to maintain it and do well.”
PC Brokers in Colorado Springs has experienced the same thing.
“We’ve been very busy with repairs of computers, sales and manufacture of computers, we build computers,” said Barry Biggs, PC Brokers Owner. He said he’s had trouble keeping parts and products in stock.
“This is across the board,” Biggs said. “Nothing like this in my experience.”
Computer stores were deemed essential and thus allowed to stay open when the pandemic struck because they offer key communications services. Now more than ever, we’re relying on a sector of the economy that’s always fought hard to stay relevant.
“It is such a fragile business because it changes about every 90 days,” Dwyer said.
The U.S. consumer electronics retailer Best Buy recently furloughed thousands of workers and is focusing on buy-online-pickup curbside orders. Meantime stores are responding to the need for things like video conferencing, or at least trying to.
“We answer our telephone yes we’re open, PC Brokers, and no we’re out of webcams,” Biggs said.
Micro Center now deep cleans its store twice a day. Commonly touched areas are constantly disinfected. No more than 60 shoppers are allowed inside at any one time.
“We have done so much as a company to create an environment where our customers feel safe and our associates feel safe coming to work,” Dwyer said.
And where virtual work needs can be satisfied.
“I don’t see a fall off, I see it maintaining,” he added.
“Just trying to find the new normal and I need this to do it,” said one woman pointing to her computer.
Hard to imagine but those devices may be more indispensable than ever.