Specialty electronics stores like Newegg have availability, but retailers like Best Buy can get you what you want, fast—provided the item”s in stock.
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Amazon has been the go-to place for tech products, but the company’s delays in the middle of April have made it necessary to look elsewhere. Brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy and Office Depot are facing competition from online retailers like Newegg and B&H.
Consumers are willing to pay a little more for products that are actually in stock, which means the old method of buying technology—looking for the absolute lowest price—is being abandoned. We can’t promise that a specific store will have the item you’re looking for, but we found that most of them carried at least some of the products we couldn’t find on Amazon.
Why you can’t find anything on Amazon
Right now, availability is more important than price. In the first two weeks of March, more regions or entire states started issuing shelter-in-place orders, leading to “historic” sales increases for productivity hardware, as reported by retail analyst firm NPD. Consumer sales of computer monitors nearly doubled in the first two weeks of March, according to NPD vice president and technology analyst Stephen Baker. Sales of other input devices, such as mice and keyboards, as well as notebook PCs, increased by 10%. Corporate notebook sales increased by 30 percent in the final week of February and by 50 percent in the first two weeks of March, indicating strong demand from businesses.
The spending spree has unexpectedly and severely strained the technology supply chain. Although Amazon has claimed to prioritize household goods over notebooks and monitors, both are still available for shipping. Recent research by lisbdnet.com found that many tech products on Amazon were delayed until late April, and this trend appears to be continuing. We area greater increase in the short-term availability of technology products, albeit still not on par with Amazon’s usual performance.
The IDG Collection, by Mark Hachman
Currently, even Amazon Prime items have a typical availability delay of about a week.
Newegg: A good place to start
Aiming to dethrone Amazon as the go-to electronics retailer, Newegg has launched an aggressivetheconvenient one-stop-shop for all technological needs during mandatory telecommuting. “Newegg is very much open for business with little to no interruption,” Anthony Chow, Newegg’s global chief executive, said in response to a question. Sales have been on the rise in recent weeks, particularly for technological goods. Since then, we’ve been hard at work trying to increase our stock to meet the rising demand, much of which comes from people who need to work from home but don’t have the necessary equipment.
By Mark Hachman / IDG
Though Newegg is geared more toward gamers than home office workers, you can still find good bargains there.
Like Amazon, Newegg serves as a marketplace for numerous vendors, which explains why the selection at Newegg is currently wider and more comprehensive than at most other stores. However, Newegg has built in a lot of leeway.
Newegg, in contrast to Amazon, does not promise specific delivery times. It only gives a time frame in which “most customers” should expect to receive their orders. The following is an actual Newegg order page, which only states that “most customers” will receive their webcam within 6-16 days.
The IDG Collection, by Mark Hachman
This seems overly vague, “Most” customers, in 6 to 16 days? Newegg appears to have good availability and reasonable prices.
The ship date’s flexibility makes a lot more sense once you read the fine print and learn that the product ships from Australia. Similarly, the Razer Kiyo 1080p ring-light camera had a similar setup: Even though Amazon ran out of stockRemove non-product link, Razer was promising four-to-seventeen day delivery on Newegg, with the latter’s fulfillment center located in Hong Kong.
At least, with Newegg, you’re assured that you canbuyhard-to-find items like webcams, going above and beyond what you might find on Amazon or at a store like Office Depot. Chow assured investors that Newegg had sufficient resources to meet customer demand.
Chow said that Newegg was a supplier for other channels because “our supply chain is distributed and durable,” which allowed the company to find and deliver the technology products its customers wanted on schedule. “Brands that are having trouble selling through other distribution channels are coming to us to help them meet this growing demand,” Chow said, adding that the company is still able to fulfill orders normally despite the unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Best Buy: Curbside pickup means quick availability
Best Buy’s physical locations have been and continue to be important demonstration spaces for in-store technology. The company now provides two convenient options for customers: curbside pickup (instead of visiting the store) and home delivery from regional distribution centers.
Photo: Mark Hachman / IDG
Although Best Buy could improve by emphasizing shipping more, the store is adequately stocked with the devices you require.
It’s true that Best Buy has some redeeming qualities. For instance, if you’re looking for a USB-C hub and are willing to buy an in-house brand rather than a popular name brand, you’ll find a greater selection of Insignia products. Best Buy falls short when it comes to popular brands. Whether it’s due to high demand or a strained supply chain, I found that many items at the Best Buy near me in the Bay Area were unavailable. (Sometimes, Best Buy will add a note saying the item isn’t available within a certain distance from your location.)
However, at the time of publication, Best Buy offered several different USB-C hubs that were in stock and ready to ship out. It was easy to find a store that sold notebook computers and even easier to get one shipped to me in three days if they didn’t have any in stock. (There is another store located around 10 miles away where laptops are occasionally available.) Even though Best Buy advertised a wide selection of monitors, the store required about a week for delivery. And if you’re in the market for an HDMI cable—the kind of low-value necessity Amazon is currently foregoing—Best Buy appears to have plenty, such as this Insignia two-pack of six-foot Ultra HD HDMI cables for $40Remove non-product link, either in-store right now or within a few days.
The big boxes: Target, Walmart
Don’t ignore Walmart and Target. There may not be much space dedicated to electronics in a brick-and-mortar Target, but the Computers & Office page on the Target website is organized in a way that makes it easy to find what you need.
Photograph: Mark Hachman / IDG
Many items don’t appear to be in stock at Target any longer. However, if it relies on Antonline, it almost certainly will succeed.
Sadly, Target doesn’t include an estimated delivery date in its product grid. However, much of Target’s fulfillment is handled by Antonline, so any Target listing that lists “antonline” as a partner has a good chance of being in stock. We discovered an unexpectedly large selection of monitors, including a Dell UltraSharp 24-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel LCD on sale for $189Remove non-product link, all of which were to be delivered within 7-10 days.
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About a hundred different laptops and Chromebooks are available at Target, with the vast majority usually in stock. These include reliable mainstream options such as the HP Pavilion x360 14-inch 2-in-1 for $745Remove non-product link. Even though Target sells webcams, it didn’t showcase any affordable models in the middle price range (between $400 and $600) that would be within reach of most shoppers. A 6-foot Philips HDMIRemove non-product link and similar cords and cables appeared to be in stock, either locally or for shipment within a week or so.
Walmart also appears to be making good use of its supply chain by providing customers with the option of direct shipping or ship-to-store. The first grid of products you see won’t indicate whether or not they are available for shipping, so you’ll have to click through to each individual item to see if it’s in stock.
Images courtesy of Mark Hachman / IDG
Walmart’s product matrix rarely includes accurate information about expected shipping times. However, it does indicate that in some instances, you can simply stop by and pick it up.
Thankfully, this is the case most of the time when it comes to laptops and Chromebooks; however, some of its surprisingly good Motile laptops lacked a shipping date. Although USB-C hubs seemed scarce on Amazon, the site offered a wide selection of options, including thisAnker 7-in-1 USB C Hub AdapterRemove non-product link. In addition, I was able to find a good monitor at a store near me. I was able to find external hard drives that were in stock and could be shipped within a week.
Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax: Don’t sleep on these giants
Even though staples like printers and desks can be found at most office supply stores, most tech enthusiasts go elsewhere for their purchases. Just change your mind. In the same way that a bodega or rural market might hide a stash of toilet paper, they might also hide a stash of technology basics.
Keep in mind that many of these stores provide the convenience of curbside pickup: Make sure you have the money ready, open the trunk, and grab a pair of gloves. (A helpful worker at Office Depot delivered a friend’s order to their car trunk, saving them the trouble of getting out of their vehicle.) Staples offers free shipping, no matter how small the order, and curbside pickup in many areas. Next-day shipping costs at least $45 from OfficeMax/OfficeDepot (they’re the same company now that OfficeDepot acquired OfficeMax in 2013).
By Mark Hachman / IDG
An all-too-common problem at Office Depot/Office Max is running out of a product that can only be purchased in-store. Customers’ time and energy could be better spent elsewhere, so why not tell them?
However, Office Depot/Office Max’s database has a significant bug: product page promises aren’t reflected in stock levels. This Dell Inspiron l found is yours. Oh, you can arrange for pick-up in-store? I can get it today, you say? Nope. Office Depot uses a bait-and-switch tactic when you click through to the product page: The Inspiron can be picked up in a store, but only if you live within 100 miles of the location.
Aside from laptops, I also found a few other examples of “in-store pickups” that would require a 20-minute drive to purchase. There was a plethora of standard home office equipment like external hard drives, mice, and keyboards. However, among the five options I considered, none had screens. Both printers and printer ink were available.
(Know that in addition to standard office supplies, both Office Max/Office Depot and Staples stock janitorial supplies, such as paper towels and toilet paper. It’s true that you can buy toilet paper there (though unfortunately, the stores in my area were out, so your mileage may vary).
At Staples, you won’t have to spend as much time browsing and selecting products. Staples makes it clear whether an item is in stock or not, but only after you click the “1-Hour pick-up” button. Staples will only show you stores that have the product in stock if you are forced to look elsewhere. Office Depot and OfficeMax force you to click through to multiple stores, even if none of them carry the item you need.
—Mark Hachman / IDG
Staples isn’t perfect because it will sometimes mislead you into thinking a product is in stock when it actually isn’t, so you’ll still need to look elsewhere. However, the process is easier than with some of the alternatives.
Now through the end of the year, Staples will ship your order at no cost. A caveat is unfortunately often attached to the usual “delivered FREE in 3-5 business days:” Supply and demand mean that shipping times could be longer than anticipated. For how much longer? There is no indication of this on the Staples product page.
Somewhat satisfying selections of portable computers were available for home delivery (within three to four days) or in-store pickup. Locating a monitor was a bit of a challenge, but they were available. Staples provided next-day shipping on all computer accessories, including mice, keyboards, and even an antibacterial set. I’m sure it’s sold out, but the link doesn’t go to a product page. For external hard drives, a one-day turnaround time was the norm. It took about a week to receive my USB-C hub, but it was available.
B&H: Crystal-clear inventory and shipping data
Although B&H (which is privately held and has a single store in New York City in addition to a thriving online store) is frequently featured in our daily deals, the company is likely not as well-known as it should be. In these times of scarcity, it’s worth checking out, as the company appears to have a firm grasp on its stock and shipping information.
Except for the highlighted products at the top of the page, expected delivery dates are prominently displayed alongside the product descriptions. We discovered a sizable stock of many different product categories, as well as a service where you could sign up to be notified when stock levels dropped. Additionally, if you’ve become desensitized to retailers’ seemingly endless lists of “sold out” notifications (looking at you, Best Buy), B&H is one of the retailers that seems to prioritize displaying what it has in stock.doesown, as opposed to what it lacks.
Photos by Mark Hachman / IDG
You’ll find B&H’s product descriptions and shipping estimates to be more transparent and helpful than those of competing retailers.