Malls and Retail Wiki
Advertisement

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.

An Incredible Universe Store

Layout[]

The stores featured a large rotunda area with an actual stage where sales presentations, product demonstrations, autograph signings, DJ performances, or even occasional live music performances were performed, and various retail departments (software, music and video, accessories and appliances) 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.

History[]

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. Another, in Woodbridge, Virginia, became a manufacturing plant for General Dynamics' line of amphibious war fighting vehicles, from 2002 to 2012; it was later adapted to Gander Mountain and Floor & Decor stores, before becoming vacant, which it remains to this day. The Westbury, Long Island store was converted into a Target and no longer has the 'signature' look (bowed front) of an Incredible Universe. The Auburn, Washington location, situated on the north side of the Supermall Of The Great Northwest, was converted to a Sam's Club in 1999, retaining the original Incredible Universe facade. The location closed without warning in early 2018; the site is currently unused. The Lone Tree, Colorado store became a Great Indoors, until that chain closed in 2012, at which point it converted to a Sears Outlet, though that eventually closed as well, leaving the property vacant. The Hollywood, Florida location remained empty for some time, but was eventually converted to a Home Depot which is remains to this day.

In the mid-1990s, Incredible Universe was a sponsor of the Texas Rangers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Stars, Dallas Sidekicks and Dallas Mavericks professional sports franchises.

Advertisement