AUSTIN, Texas – Sometimes Chris Tom has to say no to his clients.
As the owner of Game Republik, he is often asked if he can repair older generation game consoles and get them ready the same day. He responds with respect and confidence.
“PS2 lasers are almost impossible to get right now,” Tom passes the message on to his employee while the customer is on hold.
By “right now” Tom is referring to the ongoing pandemic that is straining his ability to obtain certain supplies for specific repairs. He tells the customer he can fix it, but not on the same day.
Yet it was the repairs in his workshop that kept the business running smoothly from 2020 to 2021.
“The repairs were pretty solid. We also sell stuff that we fix, ”said Tom.
Repairs doubled last year. Tom says it’s because more people are at home.
“That meant they broke more stuff. The more stuff they broke, the more we got,” Tom said.
Game Republik also saw an increase in sales of custom desktops. Custom-built machines allow the user to create a computer as powerful as he can afford.
It’s a way for gamers to get the most out of their PCs, but Tom says his customers aren’t strictly gamers. He built computers for people who spend the majority of their work working remotely.
“Sure, it’s fast for games, but it’s also fast for video editing, encoding, decoding, pretty much whatever you want to do,” Tom said. “Lots of power. Lots of speed. He’ll handle anything you throw at him.
The demand for custom PCs is booming. According to a report by International data company (IDC), the work from home trend has led to the best selling performance of PCs in a decade.
“Every segment of the supply chain was pushed to its limits as production again lagged behind demand during the quarter,” said an IDC research manager.
It is especially difficult for Tom to get GPUs, more commonly known as video cards.
“Video cards help you speed things up. Especially if you do 4K or better video in things like Adobe. He’s a beast, Tom said. “The demand is high. It’s high because of bitcoin. It was already high because of COVID. ”
With production unable to meet demand, many consumers are forced to pay for GPUs well above the MSRP. Tom can get one card at a time from his ATM, but he’s already paying more for the product due to tariffs being imposed on China by the Trump administration.
The tariffs aren’t new, but computer hardware was included in a waiver that saved products from being taxed up to 25 percent. This exemption expired on January 1. Some companies are already passing the additional costs on to customers.
“Prices, according to the manufacturer, have gone up,” Tom said. “I’ve seen up to almost 30 percent on some of these guys. It’s just more expensive to do business right now. With the tariffs returning, I expect it won’t be cheaper until the tariffs are cleared.
Tom’s favorite GPU has already grown by around 10%, from around $ 800 to $ 880, but he’s skeptical that it will stay there. As much as Game Republik needs a new product to build PCs for its customers, it also needs GPUs and other PC hardware to update computers internally.
The Biden administration is expected to take a more diplomatic approach in trade talks with China. Biden said The New York Times in December, it would not remove tariffs immediately.
Biden’s candidate for Treasury Department head Janet Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee that China is undermining American businesses. His statements echo similar criticisms from the Trump administration.
Tom says his goal right now is to keep his employees and customers safe. It will have to find another place to cut costs if tariffs remain long-term and the COVID-19 vaccine is not more widely available.