By Jay Fidell
When you travel you are drawn to tech stores, as if on a busman’s holiday. Or at least I am.
A few years ago, I got to see the BIC electronics store in Tokyo. It was huge, with at least six floors filled with all kinds of Japanese electronics, from a wall full of cell phones to a floor full of computers. It well overshadowed CompUSA, then the predominant tech store in Honolulu. It’s very popular and a million people were there the day I visited.
In August, I visited the FNAC (Fédération Nationale d’achats des Cadres) tech store at 136 rue de Rennes, Montparnasse, at the St.-Placide stop of the Paris metro. It’s part of an international French discount chain. With two floors, it was probably the biggest tech store in France. It had a rich selection of electronics, from Garmins to Cannons to Apples, at Euro prices similar to U.S. prices but half again as much with the exchange rate. The staff was knowledgeable, if you understand French.
And on the way back, I stopped at B&H Photo in New York. It takes a good part of a city block at 34th Street and 9th Avenue. This is the be-all, end-all, of tech stores, with two floors bristling with highly trained non-commissioned staff, and a huge array of the most advanced electronics I’ve ever seen in one place, including cameras of every kind, sound and consumer/professional video, computers and security equipment. Everything you could think of and much more. To make it easy, there’s an overhead system that delivers the merchandise you select directly to the cashier. You can shop on the B&H website for years, but it all pales when you get to see their store.
I could have spent much more time at B&H. It really takes the cake of any electronics store I have ever visited, and it’s comforting to know I can continue to shop there on the web with the benefit of the three telephone book catalogs they gave me to schlep home. You can bet that on my next visit to New York, I’ll be budgeting much more time to go through B&H inch by inch and item by item. There’s nothing like being close and personal with their kind of leading edge electronics.
Honorable mention goes to Best Buy, not for their stores in Honolulu and all over, but for their innovation in establishing a vending machine system to sell electronic equipment anywhere and everywhere people might want or need it. I saw one of these machines in the LAX airport and was so impressed I’m going to write about it in my next column. Stay tuned.