01 Feb 2012
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Does tech retailing have a future?

Australian retail giant Woolworths has announced plans to close around one in four Dick Smith stores, and sell the remaining operations, prompting questions about the future of brick-and-mortar tech retailing.

The chain currently operates just under 400 stores, including around 70 in New Zealand. Woolworths says as many as 100 underperforming stores could be closed before the remainder are sold.

The company has been closing stores for several years in response to competition from online retailers and subdued consumer spending. 

Woolworths will continue to sell electronics online, raising the question of whether physical stores can compete with lower-overhead online operations.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the founder of the brand which bears his name and (until recently) face, says the growth is gone in the tech retail sector.

"The reason why Woolworths wants to sell is they have to have businesses with growth and I don’t think there’s any growth in that field,” Smith says.

"I’m amazed that they’ve kept it for so long."

Competitor JB Hi-Fi operates just 140 stores, including 13 in New Zealand. The company’s shares rose in response to the Dick Smith announcement.

Do you think brick-and-mortar tech retail has a future, or will online sales eventually take over? Post your comments below.

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