It's widely known that even though the price of just about everything is going up, one thing, that's dropping is the price of computer services. For that reason and simply because of the boom of the computer business, the industry is moving to new methods of retailing.
One of the pioneers in computer retailing is Richard Brown, founder and president ofthe Computer Store, a Burlington, Mass., company with 11 owned stores and three franchised outlets, which calls itself the largest and fastest-growing independent retailer of business computers in the country.
But a decade ago, the ideaof retail computer stores was virtually unheard of. Brown,who has been in the computer business for 25 years, workingfor companies such as GTE Sylvania and Digital Equipment Corp., started the business in 1975. "At that time people were selling computers out of their kitchens," Brown said. "Those who made the transition into our type of operations succeded. Many did not."
If Brown's figures are any indication, those successes are not minor, either. This year, the Computer Store expects to show sales of about $15 million, almost double the company's $8 million in sales in 1979.
With a store in the Tyson's Corner area, which is moving to a new site in McLean, and another in downtown Washington, the chain seems set to become a significant factor in the computer business in this area. New stores are also planned for Boston, New York City, and Westchester County, N.Y., and Brownsays he hopes to add a new store every month through 1981.
"In the last four years, there has been a series of revolutions in the computer business," Brown said last week during a stop here to attend a regional computer show. Attentionfirst focused on the mini-computers, as technology aficionados fostered a cult image for computer nuts in the mid-1970's.
But the image surrounding that facet of the gadgetry of computers soon changed, Brown observed. "About 95 percentof what people do with computers are things related to making money," he said.
So Brown has focused his firm on whathistorically has not been a major thrust of computer sellers -- small businesses. But in 1977, the Computer Store signed a distributing and retailing contract with Data General Corp. for new small-business computer systems. By 1979, small systems began booming and several large companies opened retail stores.
Nevertheless, Brown's firm offers computersmanufactured by a number of companies, including Data General, Apple Computer Inc. and Hewlett Packard. The focus is largely on firms with sales ranging from $250,000 to $15 million.
By offering small business complete service, including equipment, software, installation, training and other support services, the Computer Store sees itself as a place to go for the business that previously had not used computers in significant ways.
Now the company has more than 1,000 clients, including some in the Fortune 1,000, and only about 10 percent of the Computer Store's sales are for personal orhome use."There is no longer a need for salesmen to beat on doors to sell a $7,000 system," Brown said.