Compusa's New Boss: Damn The Torpedoes

Its former chairman resigned abruptly in December after an unexpected quarterly loss. And on Feb. 2, the news got even grimmer for CompUSA: The computer superstore chain announced a loss of $5.5 million, including a restructuring charge, even as sales jumped 65% from a year before.

Is new Chief Executive James Halpin backing away from the company's aggressive expansion plans? No way. When he ran HomeBase, a home-improvement retailer, Halpin once challenged managers to swallow fiery jalape o peppers to underscore his resolve. Now, he says: "We are continuing to expand the CompUSA retailing concept." Halpin expects to open 30 new U.S. stores in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1995, as many as this year.

CompUSA's real problem is expenses, which got out of control as the chain expanded. To pare back, Halpin will outsource assembly of private-label computers and centralize inventory management. He is also dramatically restructuring management--and taking on more responsibility himself. Analysts say those moves should return CompUSA to profitability by the end of this quarter.

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