After nearly three decades of service, the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Computer Store, located across from the Granite State Mailroom in the Memorial Union Building, is closing its doors at the end of the fall semester.
The closure was first announced by Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stan Waddell, Ph.D., on Thursday, Sept. 20, in an email sent to UNH students and other members of the community. The email noted the move comes as the store “has been impacted by the increasing popularity of online shopping and competition from other box stores,” such as Amazon and Best Buy, respectively.
Waddell – who previously served Chief Technology Officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before being selected as CIO in May 2015 – describes the store as “a retail operation that’s focused on the sale of computers and associated peripherals and accessories,” ranging from headphones to backpacks to printer supplies, among other products. He told The New Hampshire the store will remain fully operational until its closure on Dec. 7.
While he has not heard any current voices in support of keeping it open, Waddell said that internal debate within the IT Department produced the biggest argument against its closure: convenience for students.
“If you need to run in and get something today, because you got a class this afternoon and you need a USB stick or you need a cable or you need a mouse, well there’s nothing more convenient than being able to walk into the MUB and purchase it right there,” he said.
Despite the loss of the store, Waddell said that alternative venues to the Computer Store currently exist, such as kiosks called “Vengos” in the Dimond Library and other locations on campus that sell headphones, cables, batteries and other accessories using a touch screen. The resulting problem, however, per Waddell, was that UNH began competing with itself in terms of convenience sales, contributing to the decision to shutter the location.
Waddell stated that there are no current plans on how the store’s space will be used after the fall semester, but that present warranties on applicable store products will be honored and carried over as UNH works out a series of deals and partnerships with a new undisclosed vendor and provides an online portal for students to order products and services formerly offered by the physical location. He also stated the new vendor will take on more responsibilities relating to the repair and protection of electronics.
In terms of the store’s employees, Waddell said they will be prompted to check out other job opportunities within the university system, both within and outside of the IT Department, adding that the decision was far from an easy one to make.
“In any change like this, there are difficult aspects to change; there’s a number of disruptive factors out there today…and we made a decision now that has an impact in the future, and one of the things I was really adamant about was, now that we know this is how we are going to go, we should be letting the employees know so that they can plan,” Waddell explained. “The positions that are in the store today, those positions won’t be there going forward. Those positions will be eliminated. So we wanted to make sure the employees knew about that; we wanted to be as transparent as we could, and compassionate about their situations.”
The employees, per Waddell, have until Dec. 7 to “explore other opportunities” of employment as the store winds down and attempts to sell off its current inventory. Per the Sept. 20 email, returns will be accepted until Nov. 16, while gift cards will not be honored after Dec. 7.