|Consumer electronics, home appliances, personal computers and accessories|
|Fate||Six stores sold to Fry's Electronics, and one more acquired later from a third party|
|Defunct||March 31, 1997|
Incredible Universe was the name of a chain of American consumer electronics stores in the early to mid-1990s. A typical Incredible Universe was 185,000 square feet (17,200 m2) of sales floor and warehouse, stocking around 85,000 items.
The operation was conceived by former Tandy CEO John Roach. Many internal corporate philosophies of Disney theme parks were borrowed; in an Incredible Universe store, retail departments were 'scenes,' employees were 'castmembers,' uniforms were 'costumes,' and so forth. The company was a joint venture between Tandy Corporation and Trans World Entertainment.
The stores featured a large rotunda area with an actual stage where sales presentations, product demonstrations, autograph signings, or even occasional musical acts were performed, and various retail departments (software, music and video, and accessories) were accessible from this rotunda. Moving through the rotunda area would lead one to the main storefront where larger consumer electronics and computers were sold.
A store would also generally contain from four to eight sound rooms where particular combinations of audio/video equipment could be demonstrated, and some stores contained McDonald's restaurants (the Wilsonville, Oregon store contained a Pizza Hut) and temporary day care facilities where parents could leave their small children while they shopped.
Many stores also had a second floor which housed a cafeteria for the staff as well as training and demo rooms. The training rooms were used for demonstrating new product from vendors to the staff as well as public training on computers, software, and audio/video gear for purchase. Rounding out the computer department was a computer upgrade center which could add new memory, a sound card, or a modem in just a few minutes.
Initially, two stores were opened, in Arlington, Texas, and Wilsonville, Oregon; when these proved profitable, parent company Tandy decided to expand quickly, opening an additional 15 stores. During this time, however, with the growth of other retail outlets such as Best Buy, the market became more competitive, and the expense of operating such large facilities resulted in an overall lack of profitability for the entire enterprise.
Of the 17 stores, only six were ever consistently profitable; these six stores were sold to California company Fry's Electronics in 1996. The others were all closed in that same year. As the buildings were so large, they could not be readily adapted to other business purposes, and buyers were so scarce that Tandy sold the empty buildings for mere pennies on the dollar. One of the former Incredible Universe sites located in Houston, Texas was acquired and redeveloped by Houston Community College which became the HCC Southwest campus.
- "Tandy, Trans World team up for 'Incredible Universe'". allbusiness.com. Video Business.[dead link]
- Tandy decides to sell or close the Incredible Universe stores, 1996 article from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
- Fry's buys six Incredible Universe stores, a December 1996 article from the San Jose Business Journal
- Former Incredible Universe Employees Reunion website
- A case study about the store's real estate assets from retailtrafficmag.com