CompUSA to close or sell all stores

Alex Harb thinks he could gain more business because of CompUSA's plans to sell or close all 103 of its retail stores in the U.S. Harb, owner of Ribbit Computers, said Monday he could gain more retail customers if the CompUSA store at 3665 N. Rock Road closes, especially since Ribbit's newest store is just a few hundred feet away.

"Our customer base is… businesses," Harb said. "With CompUSA closing down that could help us, increasing our home user customer base.

"It's a good thing for the Wichita market because it's going to help local businesses like ours grow more."

Late Friday, Dallas-based CompUSA said that it had been acquired by an affiliate of Gordon Bros. Group, a Boston-based restructuring and investment firm.

The Gordon unit plans to "initiate an orderly wind-down of CompUSA's retail store operations," the companies said in a news release.

Gordon plans to keep all of the CompUSA stores operating through the holidays, offering "attractive bargains" on the products it sells.

Some stores -- those in "key markets" -- could be sold, in addition to two other CompUSA operations: its technical service business called CompUSA TechPro and its Internet sales operation.

Stores that it can't sell will be closed.

The privately held companies did not say which stores would be sold or closed.

Earlier this year, CompUSA said it would close 126 stores, including one in Overland Park. That left the retailer's Wichita store as its sole Kansas location.

CompUSA was founded in 1984 as Soft Warehouse, a Dallas-based software retailer.

In 1999, it was purchased by Mexican financier Carlos Slim Helo's Grupo Carso SA. CompUSA has struggled financially in recent years and in February received a $440 million cash infusion and announced a new strategy to turn around its slumping computer and electronics sales.

The strategy was to focus largely on tech enthusiasts, educated professionals and small and medium-size businesses.

In Wichita, it's unclear what the full affect will be of Gordon Bros.' plans.

Mindscapes Academy, 10234 W. 13th St., said last month that it had reached agreement to display and sell CompUSA products, as well as offer training and support for CompUSA customers.

Messages left for Mindscapes officials on Monday were not returned.